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Rare Stories and Photos From Early FIFA World Cups

A polymath from humble beginnings, spiralling. Bit of a wretch.

Match winner Joe Gaetjens being carried away by delirious fans.

Match winner Joe Gaetjens being carried away by delirious fans.

1950 World Cup - One of the Greatest Upsets of All Time

The first-ever World Cup after World War II was held in Brazil in 1950. Former Axis powers Germany and Japan had not yet been re-admitted, and many countries such as the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia refused to participate. The World Cup was further marred by withdrawals by France, Scotland, India and Turkey, who had qualified but refused to travel for various reasons.

A rag-tag bunch of footballers consisting of multiple first-generation immigrants had been sent by the United States to Uruguay. This mysterious bunch was responsible for one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history after the United States managed to beat strong contenders England 1-0, who eventually were eliminated.

Little was known about the United States goal-scorer that day, except for this famous image. It was later found that his name was Joe Gaetjens, and that he was a Haitian striker of German descent. To know more about the goal and the goal-scorer, check out this ESPN article.

Nearly 200,000 fans would watch Uruguay beat home favourites Brazil 2-1 in the finals to win the Jules Rimet trophy at the fabled Maracana stadium.

Recently unearthed footage shows that Ferenc Puskas was onside when he tapped in the equalizer for Hungary.

Recently unearthed footage shows that Ferenc Puskas was onside when he tapped in the equalizer for Hungary.

1954 World Cup - Did a Miracle Really Happen at Bern?

The 1954 World Cup was held in Switzerland, and it was won by West Germany, who beat heavy favourites Hungary 3-2 in the finals. The match was dubbed the "miracle of Bern", as West Germany had rallied from 2-0 down to mount an incredible comeback in the match. However, circumstances surrounding the game have grown murkier over the years, which have put into the doubt the validity of that victory, especially amongst Hungarians.

Apart from allegations of doping, which include a study by Leipzig University, which posits that amphetamines could have been used, as well as vitamin-C injections administered with the same syringe, which led to an outbreak of jaundice amongst the Germans after the World Cup, there are other reasons why this victory is tainted.

Down 3-2 in the last 10 minutes, the Hungarians thought they had equalized when legendary striker Ferenc Puskas had tapped the ball in from close range. However, the assistant referee flagged for offside, whereas the match referee allowed the goal. After a brief interlude, the goal was disallowed by the referee. However, the image above, and other footage scrutinized by regional German media show that Puskas was clearly not in an off-side position when he ran for the pass. The victory was a boost for the German pysche, which had been decimated after World War II, but saw riots break out in Hungary, where people had considered the result to be a foregone conclusion considering the might of the Hungarian team. Hungary have never made it to the finals since.

To know more about the legendary career of Ferenc Puskas, check out this book.

Jules Rimet, president of FIFA, presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Dr. Raul Jude, president of the Uruguayan football association. The trophy would be presented at the 1930 World Cup finals in Montevideo.

Jules Rimet, president of FIFA, presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Dr. Raul Jude, president of the Uruguayan football association. The trophy would be presented at the 1930 World Cup finals in Montevideo.

The Story Behind the Jules Rimet Trophy

Originally named "Victory", the trophy was later renamed after Jules Rimet in 1946, as he was the FIFA president who initiated the World Cups in 1930. The original trophy was designed by French sculptor Abel Lafleur. It showcased Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory. The trophy was made of gold-plated sterling silver on a lapis-lazuli base, and it weighed nearly 4 kilograms.

The stories around the trophy have become modern-day legends, and they have added a sense of mystique around the original World Cup trophy. For instance, in 1938, trophy was hidden by the Italian FIFA Vice-President in a shoebox to prevent it from being confiscated by the Nazis. The trophy was stolen in 1966, when England had won, and the trophy had been on public display. It was found a week later by dogs in a garden.

As stipulated by Jules Rimet, the trophy was given outright to Brazil in 1970, who won it for the third time. The new World Cup trophy, which we are all accustomed to, was designed for the 1974 World Cup.

However, the original trophy had a further twist in its story, when it was stolen from Rio De Janiero, where it had been kept on display behind bullet-proof glass. It was later found that a crowbar had been used to open the wooden back by force. Four men were later convicted, but the trophy was never recovered. It is believed that it was melted down and sold. Only one piece remains, which has been kept in storage in Zurich, FIFA'S headquarters. Till this day, several rumours exist about the trophy, and they have been pursued by journalists like Simon Kuper.