Belize Hosts the Most Coveted Prize on Earth Print
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Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00

Thanks to a promotional agreement between Coca Cola and FIFA, millions of people who would have never been able to get within a hundred miles of the FIFA World Cup Trophy now have the opportunity to get up close and almost personal with the most coveted prize in sports. Belizeans had that opportunity when the FIFA World Cup Trophy arrived in Belize on Thursday, November 7th.

The trophy arrived at the Phillip Goldson International Airport shortly after 9 a.m. to a welcome usually reserved for Heads of State and royalty. Special guests and members of the press were allowed unto the tarmac of the PGIA as the spectacularly dressed Coca Cola jet touched down. The fourteen and a half inches tall, thirteen and a half pound eighteen-karat gold symbol of triumph has as large a security team as any visitor in the country’s history (including Queen Elizabeth II), and it was amidst heavy guard that a press conference was held in the VIP Arrival Lounge of the airport.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth, thanked the tour organizers on behalf of the Government and people of Belize. Longsworth said, “I’d like to express on behalf of the Government and the people of Belize how very privileged we are. Thank you very much to Coca Cola and to FIFA for having put us on the list of countries that this gem for sports is going to visit."He added, “Sports is, in my opinion, the primary vehicle through which we can move our society out of where it is. Football, being the main- most popular sport in Belize, I believe will play an integral part and maybe the primary role in moving that forward.”

Ruperto Vicente, President of the Football Federation of Belize, said, “We are happy that we are able to bring this trophy to Belize and create this kind of excitement for our sport.” Vicente said the World Cup Trophy is a prize for the winner of a tournament that “unites the world, unites people and brings peace to all”. For him the visit was at a very fitting time because “Football is on the rise and football is about to achieve great things in this country."

From the airport the trophy was escorted to the Radisson Fort George Hotel where it was displayed in the Caracol Room. From 2 to 4 p.m., a couple hundred Belizeans lined up to take individual photographs with the gem. Before 2006, one would only be able to dream of doing such a thing. Pekka Odriozola, Public Relations Representative of FIFA, was present to meet and speak with guests. He explained that prior to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, FIFA sat down with long time sponsor, Coca-Cola, to figure out ways to bring the FIFA World Cup closer to fans in an effort to share the passion and spirit of the tournament directly with them. He said football is the most popular sport in the world “so we came up with this idea to bring the World Cup Trophy to the fans because most cannot afford to travel half way around the world to experience the World Cup Tournament”.  

The first tour was held in 2006 when the trophy went on a 28 country tour in a three month stretch before the FIFA World Cup in Germany. The tour was a huge success as thousands of people got to see the trophy and the tournament was one of the most anticipated in history. The list of countries to be visited by the prestigious trophy before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa increased to 84. Since it was the first time the tournament was held on African soil, organizers wanted to visit as many countries on the continent and as a result stops were made in 50 African nations. The tour included stops in 130 cities worldwide and lasted from September of 2009 to May of 2010. This time, the trophy began a 267 day tour in Brazil on September 12th which will include visits to 88 countries, 50 that have never hosted it before. In Belize, Governor General Sir Colville Young was the only person allowed to touch the trophy because only Heads of State and the Captain of the World Cup Champions are allowed to touch.  

From Belize the trophy was taken to the Middle East where it was hosted by Israel and Palestine on November 10th before going to other countries in the region. The tour ends on April 21st of 2014 in the host country, Brazil.