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Pickles: The dog who rescued the World Cup for England

vinay kumar
110   //    Timeless

Italian Football Federation Trophies Exhibition
Jules Rimet Trophy

This is the story of a black and white collie dog named Pickles and how he saved England some major blushes before the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

England was about to host the World Cup for the first time and there was excitement everywhere around the country. The English were hoping to win there first ever World Cup in their own backyard. However, before this could happen there would be a twist in the story.

The football World Cup trophy is probably the most iconic prize in the world of sports. Every four years, 32 countries and a host of superstar footballers contest for the instantly recognizable award which was designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga.

However, the current trophy wasn't the original as World Cup winners prior to 1970 were presented with the Jules Rimet Trophy.

The last team to win the Jules Rimet trophy was Brazil, who won the World Cup in 1970 for the third successive time. At that time, FIFA regulations stated that any nation winning the World Cup three times would become permanent owners of the Trophy.

The Theft

Just four months before the 1966 World Cup, the trophy was stolen while on display at the Westminster's Central Hall in England. The thief evaded the round-the-clock security and ignored rare stamps with a value of £3 million to steal the silver-gilt trophy, which was generally thought to be worth far less.

The world was infuriated with the theft.

Police immediately launched an investigation into the theft. A telephone call from a man who called himself "Jackson" to Joe Mears, chairman of Chelsea F.C and the Football Association, alerted him that a package would be left at Stamford Bridge the following day.

It contained a £15,000 ransom demand, accompanied by the removable lining from the top of the trophy. The package was turned over to the police, who arranged to meet "Jackson".


However, when they arrested the man who had mailed the package, whose real name was later found out be Edward Betchley, he claimed that he was a middleman. Apparently, the real culprit, a man he called "The Pole", was responsible but never identified.

Bletchley was eventually convicted for demanding money with menace, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. If indeed there were other persons involved in the theft, no one else has ever been found.

Pickles to the Rescue

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On the evening of March 27, 1966, a Norwood resident named Dave Corbett left his apartment with his dog Pickles to make a phone call. Suddenly, the canine became very interested in an object wrapped in newspaper and string near a garden hedge in Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood.

What followed changed Corbett and Pickles' life forever. Corbett told the BBC:

"Pickles was running around over by my neighbor's car. As I was putting the lead on I noticed this package laying there, wrapped just in a newspaper but very tightly bound with string."
"I tore a bit off the bottom and there was a blank shield, then there were the words Brazil, West Germany and Uruguay printed. I tore off the other end and it was a lady holding a very shallow dish above her head. I'd seen the pictures of the World Cup in the papers and on TV so my heart started thumping,"

Corbett was initially considered a suspect in the theft and was questioned by Scotland Yard. After he was cleared of wrongdoing he received £5,000 ($6,600) in reward money. His faithful companion was honored by the National Canine Defence League and awarded a silver medal for his role in recovering the Jules Rimet trophy.

Resulting Publicity

England winning the World Cup in 1966 made Pickles an international star. After England won the trophy, he attended the celebration banquet. He also appeared in the movie The Spy with a Cold Nose and TV shows such as Blue Peter and Magpie.

Pet food manufacturer Spillers gave him free dog food for a year and named him “Dog of the Year.” He was a worldwide phenomenon and invited to visit Chile, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. Pickles was in such demand that Corbett hired an agent to handle the publicity.

Unfortunately, the canine couldn't survive for too long after gaining celebrity status and died in 1967 when he was strangled by his choke chain lead that caught on a tree branch while he was chasing a cat near his new home in Surrey.

He was buried in his owner's back garden and his collar is on display in the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Interestingly, the cup was stolen again several years later.

In 1970, it was awarded permanently to Brazil following the FIFA World Cup. In 1983, it was taken from the Brazilian Football Confederation headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and was never recovered. A replica was sold at an auction in 1997 for £254,000 ($338,000). FIFA bought the trophy, which is now on display at the National Football Museum.

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