ESPN Soccer Stories: Mysteries of the Rimet Trophy (2014)

Directed by Brett Ratner

Sports are famous for their championship events. What is more thrilling than a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Final, World Series, World Cup!? For each of these, the teams competing are fighting for the chance to raise a famous trophy. Some trophies, however, are more famous than others. The Stanley Cup, for instance, is legendary for its history. The Jules Rimet Trophy is another such piece of championship hardware. Awarded to the team who won the World Cup in soccer from 1930 to 1970, when it was replaced with a new trophy for the 1974 Cup, the trophy was named after Jules Rimet, the president of FIFA who helped form the event. Now, you wouldn’t think that the story of a sports trophy would be all that engaging. Named after a famous guy and awarded to a bunch of athletes. Sure the story of the history of the Stanley Cup would be an interesting short subject documentary for hockey fans, but I would have never expected the story of the Rimet Trophy.

There is a lot of history, and a lot of unknown about the Rimet Trophy. It was commissioned to include a statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory, in beautiful 14K gold and Art Deco style. Brett Ratner’s film about the trophy takes on a distinctive mystery, heist feel to it when the Nazis and Adolf Hitler are introduced as possible thieves. Hoping to prove athletic superiority, Nazi Germany longed to win the trophy, but when they failed, Hitler hoped to steal the trophy, to go along with his countless other pieces of stolen artwork, from the Italians, the rightful winners of the trophy. Later, the trophy was stolen from an exhibit in England after they had won the World Cup, but it was luckily recovered by a canine friend. Lastly, the trophy went missed from the Brazilians, who had won the right to lifetime ownership in 1970. When a replica came to bid in Sotheby’s auction, the price skyrocketed, as both the Brazilians and FIFA believed/hoped it was the real thing. Alas, it was not.

So many crazy things happened with this trophy, and that is not to say how important and iconic it is with the sport, and the type of history it has simply without the high jinx. Ratner’s short film flies through these stories because it has to, time constricts him. As a result, the film ends up feeling like it could have been an hour long episode in the series, or even longer, in order to flesh out the fascinating details of these various stories surrounding the iconic statue. It is the Holy Grail of soccer, as it remains “lost” to this day. The film is fast, fascinating, and whets the appetite for more about this trophy and the stories behind it, resulting in a film that could have used more of what it already delivers. It, unfortunately, stunts its own growth, but that is hardly a criticism that derails the incredible stories it tells.

*** – Very Good

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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