This according to a Polish syndicate calling itself Federacja Czerwonych Rysi (Federation of the Red Lynx), who claim to have broken into IFA offices on Monday and stolen the 36cm gold trophy. Photographs sent to various press agencies seem to confirm this.
Rumours started circulating in soccer circles yesterday morning, when the trophy was not available for an official photo session with AMU, a local academy for promising young footballers. This morning the FCR claimed responsibility for the disappearance. An anonymous email (in Polish) stated:
“Your of trophy. I only return if Poland immediately great participation into 2010 hedgehog. Best in one easy groups.” (Translation: www.poltran.com)
Poland did not qualify for this year’s tournament.
Officials have vehemently denied the FCR claims. Spokesperson José de Santa Teresita el Niño Jesús Rodríguez de la Rocha, when asked whether the trophy had been stolen, replied:
However, when a contingent of journalists asked to view the trophy yesterday, they were told that it was being polished, and not available for viewing. This morning, they were again told that the trophy was not available, as the Trophy Polishers Union was on strike.
“Is problem,” De Santa Teresita el Niño Jesús Rodríguez de la Rocha commented.
Who or what Federacja Czerwonych Rysi are, is not clear. The photographs show two young women dressed in black, carrying the trophy in a canvas bag. Apart from sunglasses, they make no attempt to conceal their identities. They have not responded to emails, and their chat status indicates “busy”. Facebook friend requests have also gone unanswered.
South Africans can take some consolation in the fact that the alleged theft is not unique. The first World Cup, known as the Jules Rimet trophy, was stolen in London a few months before the 1966 World Cup, and found again seven days later, by a dog named Pickles.
In 1970, Brazil became the permanent owners of the trophy after winning it a third time. But in 1983, it was stolen from the headquarters of the Brazilian football federation, and never recovered. The current trophy, in use since 1974, contains 5kg of 18-carat gold.
Champion Tshabalala, spokesperson for the ministry of sport, dismissed the allegations as “racism, plain and simple”. Asked whether there were special contingencies in place should such a theft occur, he hesitated a moment before repeating “racism, pure and simple”. Further questioning revealed that this was in fact, his answering-machine message.
Independent crime expert Stoney Steenkamp, on the other hand, said:
“Hell, these days they’ll steal bloody anything. I tell you, my brother once caught one of them [CENSORED] and [CENSORED] that [CENSORED] until he [CENSORED]. That’s the way to solve crime, my bru.”
After being shown the photographs, he retracted his statement, and described the images as “not bad, hey”.
South Africa has one of the highest overall crime rates in the world, comparable only to states where the government has effectively collapsed, like the Netherlands and the UK (www.nationmaster.com). When it comes to violent crime, however, South Africa is sometimes referred to as the “Michael Phelps of the ranking system”. As a result, fears have been expressed over the safety of the hordes of football fans entering the country soon. But no-one had anticipated that the first victim would be the hallowed trophy itself.
Taking a leaf from the book of the legendary Tintin, this reporter has decided to take the responsibility of recovering the World Cup on himself.
Professor Fanie Olivier of the Department of Dutch and South African Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, has stated that he has no knowledge of Federacja Czerwonych Rysi, but that stranger things have happened, presumably referring to the theft of the Arbeit Macht Frei sign from Auschwitz last year.
Attempts to contact Pickles have proven unsuccessful.
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