By Mukami Wambora
The FIFA World Cup Trophy is no doubt the most coveted piece of silverware in world football. Countries across the globe dream to see their own lift the crown at some point but it is a prize enjoyed by an elite few.
The World Cup trophy tour sponsored by beverage giants Coca Cola has made one dream a reality for footballing fans in Kenya and all over the world; the chance to have a first hand look at the 18-carat gold masterpiece.
I had the opportunity to travel with the trophy from the 28th Leg of the tour, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Kenya.
On February 26 we accompanied the trophy from our hotel in Addis Ababa to Bole International Airport and the ride was quite something.
Our fleet had police escort, a privilege normally only accorded to state dignitaries, and city traffic was cleared just to ensure the journey was smooth and secure.
It was at the airport that we got a first sight of the impressive machine that we would be using to travel with the trophy to Nairobi. A Boeing 737-300 with a twist.
It was branded with the trophy tour on the outside but it was the interior of the aircraft that was a sight to behold.
Rather than your typical airplane seats, at the front of the specially modified aircraft was a custom made mini football pitch with a list of all 51 countries the trophy is set to visit printed on the side.
After a satisfying two-hour flight which involved me reacquainting myself with a few footballing tricks, mid air, it was time to strap in and begin the descent to the capital Nairobi.
We touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to a heroes welcome.
A state welcome typified by the presence of Maasai cultural dancers and ministry officials including the Cabinet Secretary for Sport and Heritage, Rashid Echesa, the Cabinet Secretary for Toursim, Najib Balala.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa was aslo among the distinguished guests present to welcome the trophy to the country.
Work of art
It was the JKIA runway that the trophy was unveiled to the Kenyan Public for the third time in history coming here previously in 2009 and 2014. The trophy itself is a work of art.
Designed by an Italian artist named Silvio Gazzaniga, it depicts two human figures holding the earth above their heads. The golden silverware weighs 6.3 kilograms and etched at the very bottom of the trophy is every winner of each World Cup since the 1994 edition.
The trophy can only be handled by previous World Cup winners and Heads of State and as such the next destination for the trophy was to the residence of the only Kenyan permitted to hold the trophy, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
As he lifted the trophy two thoughts in my head rang supreme. The first disappeared just as quickly as it appeared due to its unlikelihood, “Will Kenya ever participate in a World Cup?”.
The second elicited excitement about the upcoming tournament in June, “Which of the 32 participating teams would get to lift the trophy this year?”
With giants such as 2006 winners Italy and 2010 finalists Holland missing who would lift this coveted trophy? And as I pondered on this, I remembered the words of World Cup winner, footballing legend and now Belgium assistant coach Thierry Henry said during his recent trip to Kenya.
When I asked him about the World Cup and the hopes for his nation France and the team he coaches, Belgium he simply replied “You can never predict what’s going to happen in a world cup” And so we wait for June when after visiting 91 cities, 51 countries and 6 continents, the trophy will return to Russia for the start of the 2018 World Cup.
First Published by Citizen News