The World Cup Could Have Been The Winston Churchill Cup

M@
By M@
The World Cup Could Have Been The Winston Churchill Cup

Somewhere, in a parallel universe, this happened.

Image from Kremlin.ru under a creative commons licence, badly photoshopped by Londonist.

Vladimir Putin reveals the Winston Churchill trophy for the 2018 World Cup. It might have happened, had events unfolded differently 52 years before.

Defending champions Brazil came to the 1966 World Cup with high hopes. Their squad included some of the world's best players, including Pelé. They were the favourites to win.

In those days, participants fought for the Jules Rimet Cup, named after the FIFA president who initiated the competition. Rimet had stipulated that the first team to win three World Cups could keep the trophy in perpetuity — much like the scorer of a hat-trick gets to take home the match ball. Brazil were knocking on the door, having already won in 1958 and 1962.

Brazil's football association promised that, were they to win in 1966, they would replace the trophy with another. But what to call it? Because the Jules Rimet would be awarded for the final time at the England World Cup, its replacement would carry the name of an Englishman. Who else but the great statesman who had died just a year before? The Winston Churchill Cup was on.

Cutting from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 18 January 1966, one of several news reports to mention the intended name. (c) Trinity Mirror. All rights reserved. Found in the British Newspaper Archive.

Uruguay and Italy had also lifted the trophy on two occasions and would have kept the Jules Rimet had they won. As it happened, Brazil and Italy crashed out in the group stage, and Uruguay were trounced by West Germany in the quarter-finals.

The Jules Rimet Cup was, of course, lifted by England in 1966. The English had won the trophy, but lost the chance to name its successor. Brazil finally got their third win in 1970 and retained the cup. Its replacement — the one still used today — has no special name and is simply known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

"We shall fight them on the pitches...". Imagining what might have been.

So we never got the Winston Churchill Cup. The obese, chain-smoking, binge-drinking war leader was hardly a paragon of athletic prowess. Naming the cup after the man would have been a ludicrous move. On the other hand, he did share his initials with the tournament.

Last Updated 04 July 2018