The football competition Euro 2020 – still branded as 2020 despite the fact that it took place in 2021 – was one filled with drama on and off the pitch. I applauded England’s efforts as they made their way to the final, but they remained a penalty kick away from putting their hands on the trophy of the European Championship. Whilst looking at the trophy in the hands of the winning Italians, I realised that it was not the same trophy that I saw other teams (such as Germany in 1996 or Greece in 2004) lift high in the air to victorious applause. So, what happened to this original trophy?
This question made me think about a post from three summers ago when I visited Alton Towers. It wasn’t the actual location that grabbed me, but rather the history of the location and how it made me realise how everything has its own history: every person, every item, every building. And so, why not a short history about a trophy?
The very first UEFA European Championship was held in 1960, which was a fitting time due to the growth of integration of European countries during that immediate post-war period; particularly with the development of the European Coal and Steel Community which would later develop into the EEC and then later the EU. This first tournament was a modest affair when compared to the later incarnations: the actual tournament itself was played with the final four teams in France, with the USSR winning by defeating Yugoslavia in Paris. This final has a real feel of the Cold War about it, and of course, both finalists are no longer actual countries. And the same goes for the trophy that the Soviet Union players lifted.
The trophy is officially called the Henri Delaunay Trophy, named after a former secretary of UEFA who was influential in devising the tournament. The cup itself was silver and had the appearance of a modest vase, giving it a somewhat underwhelming effect. Furthermore, it simply seemed impractical: the two handles were far too small to hold (especially when compared to the UEFA Champions League trophy), and the marble plinth made it difficult to hoist. It seemed as if it was made for sitting contentedly on a shelf rather than to be paraded around a football pitch. However, no matter its seeming limitations, all winning teams from 1960 to 2004 lifted this trophy.
UEFA decided to remodel the trophy for the 2008 tournament. It appears that the trophy was seen as too small, perhaps too unsightly, and perhaps a tad unpractical due to the marble plinth. A brand new trophy was created which is based on the original, however, the new one is larger and heavier, with the plinth now removed. The UEFA website explains the reasons for making this change:
‘UEFA wanted to improve on the quality but also the scale of the trophy, in order to have a focal point for the event – it was felt the original trophy was too small to do this.’
The original trophy still exists but has been officially “retired”, although winning countries have their own replicas of the trophy in various cabinets all over Europe (although not in England, sadly). The transformation of this trophy matches the change in UEFA as an organisation during this period; from small beginnings to become an incredibly successful organisation. But the trophy’s change also mirrors the change in wider society: how could the original modest trophy expect to survive in the era of social media and self-image? Its change in the mid-2000s was effectively the use of a face-lift or the application of a Snapchat filter. And so, although the new version looks more impressive, I do mourn a little for the more modest, impractical original. It may have been small, but it seemed unique.