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The Dog Who Saved the World Cup for England

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Corbis

Although Portuguese striker Eusebio scored nine goals in the 1966 World Cup and England's Geoff Hurst booted four goals to lead the home team to victory, neither of them was the real most valuable player of that year's Cup. That distinction went to an English pooch named Pickles.

As part of the ramp-up to hosting the 1966 World Cup, English soccer officials had been displaying the Jules Rimet Trophy that went to the Cup's winner in various places around the country. That March, the trophy had been residing in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster under the watchful eyes of five guards.

Something went awry on the morning of March 20th, though. The guard who normally stayed at the trophy's side had the day off, and at some point when the other four members of the security detail were enjoying their coffee or a quick trip to the loo, thieves broke in a back door of the hall and swiped the trophy.

As you might imagine, this theft didn't reflect too well on England. Hosting the World Cup is a complex, logistically difficult operation, and while everything may not go totally smoothly, FIFA at least expects host countries not to lose the trophy itself. The theft immediately became the biggest story in the British press, and crackpot theories and false leads soon inundated Scotland Yard.

Eventually, the police received a ransom demand: the thief would return the trophy in exchange for £15,000 in small bills. Scotland Yard and soccer officials reluctantly went along with this plan, but a trailing police van spooked the thief before he led them to the trophy. After police apprehended the suspect, a petty grifter named Edward Betchley, he claimed he was only a middleman who was working for a shady, possibly fictitious character known as "The Pole."

The police had their man, but they were still short one Jules Rimet Trophy. That's where Pickles, a four-year-old mutt, entered the picture. On March 27, Pickles was out for a walk with his owner, David Corbett, in South London when something under a hedge distracted the pup. Pickles insisted on investigating this hedge and eventually pulled out a newsprint parcel tied together with string. When Corbett opened the parcel, he realized that Pickles had found the Jules Rimet Trophy. It's still not clear how the trophy ended up under the hedge in the first place.

Corbett ran the trophy to his local police station, but the cops thought the story of Pickles miraculously finding the trophy in a hedge was a bit far-fetched. They initially thought Corbett was a suspect for the theft; detectives even questioned him until 2:30 a.m. and made him stand in a lineup before clearing his alibi for the day of the burglary.

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Once Corbett was cleared, the media got the story, and Pickles became an international star. Offers to visit foreign countries rolled in for the heroic hound, and he received a free year's supply of dog food. Pickles even starred in a feature film, The Spy With the Cold Nose. At the height of Pickles' popularity, he was earning £60 a day for Corbett.

Better still, when the English team won the World Cup that year, the players asked for Pickles to attend the celebratory banquet and even let him lick their plates clean. Corbett received a £3,000 reward that he used to buy a house in Surrey.

Sadly, Pickles didn't live to see the next World Cup. And the Jules Rimet Trophy wasn't much luckier. When Brazil won the Cup for the third time in 1970, it earned the right to keep the trophy in perpetuity; the familiar FIFA World Cup trophy someone will win next month made its debut in 1974. Thieves stole the Jules Rimet Trophy from a locked case in Brazil in December 1983. Tell your pups to keep their eyes open; the purloined trophy still hasn't been recovered.

This post originally appeared in 2010.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Curling: A Beginner's Guide to Where and How to Learn to Curl
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Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

To the casual spectator, curling raises several questions. What are the players yelling about, for instance, and is all the sweeping really that important? The viewers who are only aware of the sport for two weeks every four years may also wonder if curling is still a thing when the winter Olympics are no longer in session. The answer, of course, is yes, and you don't need to be training for the big event to learn the game.

Curling may not have the mainstream appeal of other winter sports like skiing or ice-skating, but it's still accessible to amateurs if you know where to look. If you're a complete beginner, the best way to jump into the sport is to find your local curling club. Some clubs have spaces of their own dedicated to curling, while others are part of larger rinks that are also used for general ice skating. Team USA and the Shot Rock Curling Supplies company both offer interactive maps on their websites you can use to search curling clubs in your area.

Once you've found your club, the next step is learning the sport. Many curling clubs offer classes for beginners to develop the rudimentary skills required to deliver stones and sweep ice. Programs might consist of one session or a course spanning several weeks. Once you have a handle on the basics, you'll be prepared to get back on the ice and compete.

But unlike other sports, finding the right tools, people, and space necessary to actually play the sport isn't so easy. Fortunately, curling clubs also organize leagues for varying skill levels that provide all of that for you. To play you'll first have to pay a membership fee, but once you've signed up you'll be a part of a team that shares your commitment to the game.

This is the same way many Olympic athletes got involved in the sport, but it's a worthy hobby whether or not you aspire to go for the gold one day. The Oakville Curling Club in Ontario writes on their website: "It is a lifelong sport that can be learned at any age. Whether playing in a fun league or in a competitive ladder the emphasis is always on sportsmanship and fair play. Being a social sport by nature, it is not uncommon for teams to socialize off the ice where lasting friendships are often made."

Check out these cool facts about curling to learn the basics of how the game is played.

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