Infantino handed Messi the real trophy for a few minutes.
An Argentinian couple who had built a handcrafted replica of the World Cup and brought it to Qatar for the tournament were shocked to find the cup in the hands of the champions as they celebrated their win.
Paula Zuzulich and her husband Manuel Zaro, who attended the intense match against France at Lusail Stadium last month, revealed to Argentinian media that their replica trophy made its way onto the field and into the hands of the players.
A picture of Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi lifting the cup on the pitch became the most like image in the history of Instagram.
Just moments earlier, Messi had lifted the real FIFA World Cup on the awards podium after his team was declared the champions of the tournament.
However, as he paraded around the pitch with his ecstatic teammates, the wrong trophy was picked up without his knowledge. Teammate Angel di Maria quickly moved to inform him of the confusion, which caused the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to smirk in amusement.
A photo of Messi and Di Maria laughing while the former held the trophy in his hands was shared on photographer Fernando de la Orden’s Instagram account two days after the championship match.
Santiago Bluguermann, a different Buenos Aires-based photojournalist, enquired as to what the two players were discussing, to which De la Orden replied: “Di Maria was telling Leo that he had just done the lap of honour with a fake trophy and that he had the real one, that’s why they were laughing,” according to reports.
Zuzulich then joined the conversation, informing De la Orden on his account that her and her husband are the owners of the “fake trophy and passed it to the players on the pitch. It’s very funny, thank you.”
On his return to Argentina, De la Orden met Zuzulich and her husband Manuel Zaro at their residence in La Plata to showcase the replica.
“Before the World Cup we got in touch with people who make trophies and it took six months to make it. It’s the same weight as the original, it’s made of resin and quartz on the inside and covered with gold-coloured paint. There are a few details that are not the same, but the difference is minimal,” the couple told local media.
“The idea was to get the players to sign it, but in the end, it was taken down to the pitch three times.
“First a member of [Leandro] Paredes’ family got him to sign it. The second time we were asked for it, it was down there for 45 minutes, being passed from one player to another, from one relative to another, while photos were taken. The other fans in the stand told us: ‘You lost the cup.’ We were having fun but we wanted it back. That’s when I shouted to a couple of players: ‘That cup that Paredes has, it’s ours.’”
“In the end, Lautaro Martínez signed it and brought it back over. Then FIFA security arrived and asked us to hand it over to make sure it wasn’t the original.”
So where was the real trophy?
Infantino handed Messi the real trophy as Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani draped the champion with a traditional Arab bisht cloak. That 18-carat gold trophy, reportedly valued at a staggering £17.7 million or USD $21.3 million, had remained on the pitch for a mere few minutes before a FIFA-sanctioned replica was rolled out.
The original is sent back to FIFA’s headquarters in Switzerland. As per official FIFA rules, the World Cup Trophy can only be touched and held by a very select group of people, which includes former winners of the FIFA World Cup and heads of state.
There may have been three World Cups on the field at once, the report claimed, but for more than 30 minutes there were only two; one at either end of the stadium where the Argentina players were presenting the trophy to their supporters.
These two World Cups were the official FIFA replica and the Argentine-made fake.
Later, Di María, who was on Messi’s other side of the stadium, said: “The security personnel told me: ‘Please don’t give the cup to anyone.’ I told them: ‘But there’s another cup over there,’ and they replied: ‘No, no, the one you have is the real one, that’s why we’re with you.’ That’s what I was telling Messi.”
Only a few hours after the festivities were over, according to Zaro, did the couple realise Messi had been carrying their fake cup. “When we saw the photos, we realised that Leo had lifted it. We saw details, especially on the base, which confirmed that it was ours. Antonella [Leo’s wife] lifted the cup too, as well as one of Messi’s sons.”