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Pure Gold and GOOAALLL!!!

Made entirely of 6.175 kilograms of solid 18 karat gold and standing 36 centimeters tall, it’s been touted as the most famous trophy in the entire world. Now on its third global tour, where 88 different countries will be visited during the current leg, on Wednesday the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup trophy stopped by for a visit at the Henry Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.

It’s the first time the trophy ever visited the territory.

On Thursday, the World Cup trophy heads to Antigua as part of its 221 day journey where next summer one lucky nation and winner in Brazil will garner the honor of merely being able to touch and hold it, but only in that moment of victory as the trophy can never truly be won outright.

With its own jet, handlers (they wear white gloves) and an entourage to travel along with it as it navigates the planet, the World Cup winners in Brazil next summer merely receive a gold-plated replica of what FIFA calls, “the authentic, one of a kind, World Cup trophy.”

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As technically the first Virgin Islander to actually see the trophy on its private jet after it arrived, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone was in awe of the trophy as he joked with its handlers to please come back and visit the Virgin Islands when they were off tour.

“Neat,” Malone said in seeing it for the first time. “Wow! Amazing.”

As for one more unique quality of the trophy, besides winners and former winners, the only other people allowed to touch it are heads of state.

That meant during its V.I. presentation, it was hands off for both Malone and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, in addition to everyone else who gawked at it and held up cell phones trying to capture the history-making moment.

“That’s the magic around the trophy,” said FIFA’s tour representative Jan Schetters. “But it’s so nice to see the smiles on children’s faces when they see it because you know it inspires them to play football, hopefully one day qualify for the FIFA World Cup, and maybe even win it.”

Malone elaborated later that what most impressed him about the trophy was its detailed, Italian craftsmanship depicting two athletes holding the globe to unify the world, and the history associated with the current trophy, in existence since 1974.

The winner of the 1970 World Cup – Brazil – was allowed to keep the old trophy.

Malone had hopes the trophy’s presence would assist in the promotion of the U.S. Virgin Islands among the more than 200 member nations of FIFA.

“It’s good for exposure and good for St. Croix because we’re part of FIFA and I’m happy they recognized us,” Malone said. “My main focus is definitely bringing more visitors to the territory and this plane’s arrival will hopefully help our efforts to bring more business here and recognize us as one of those places where a lot of football fans follow this particular event.“

Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the trophy tour held a welcome reception off the plane later in the afternoon in a lounge located just next to the baggage claim area at the airport.

The lieutenant governor used his remarks to speak of the government’s commitment to further developing a soccer stadium and a larger international soccer presence in the territory.

“For the last two years we’ve been in discussions to build a soccer stadium,” Francis said. “I want to say today that the government actually leased 13 acres of property for the development of a professional soccer stadium.”

He continued, “FIFA has committed an initial starting contribution of $500,000 for the local federation to develop a stadium,” Francis said. “And the students here today are the ones who will benefit.”

Mike Weidenhamer, district sales manager of Coca-Cola, told visitors that the World Cup trophy gave the company the opportunity to share its passion for the “beautiful game” where the fans are given a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the trophy up close in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Coca-Cola shares the passion that the fans have for football around the world, to bring the world together and has always supported local teams in the United States Virgin Islands,” Weidenhamer said.

After the dignitary remarks, soccer enthusiasts and a lot of children were allowed to line up for pictures with the trophy, which by then was enclosed in a glass case with a triangular mirror beneath it so witnesses could see the winners etched in gold on the trophy’s bottom ever since 1974.

Besides the winner’s trophy being gold-plated, that’s the difference between the real trophy and the winners’ replicas.

“It’s pretty cool,” said 10-year-old goalkeeper Leo Rosas, who plans to cheer for Brazil in World Cup 2014. “It’s the FIFA World Cup trophy.”

His four friends standing with him in line waiting anxiously to snap a photo next to the trophy agreed.
And that trophy now has some of its storied history in the territory and particularly, St. Croix.

In soccer speak, in hosting pure gold, the U.S. Virgin Islands might just have netted a goal of its own.

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