'First World Cup' Memorial – West Auckland, England - Atlas Obscura
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West Auckland, England

'First World Cup' Memorial

This memorial depicts the unlikely team that won England the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy. 

This bronze statue shows a soccer player kicking a ball while a coal miner lies on his side, wielding a pick. It seems like a disjointed scene, but it actually commemorates a surprising soccer scenario.

In 1909, Sir Thomas Lipton donated a trophy to the Italian soccer authorities for an international competition, which has been dubbed the “First World Cup” even though other international soccer competitions did indeed precede it.

Although the Italians fielded a composite team called Italy XI, the other competing countries—Switzerland, Germany, and England—sent club teams as their representatives. The Swiss and Germans used well-known teams, but the English Football Association was represented by the West Auckland Amateur Football Club, which consisted of coal miners.

According to popular legend, the West Auckland Football Club was invited by mistake. Their invitation had been intended for the Woolwich Arsenal FC, which had the same initials.

Yet despite the legendary mixup, the amateur football club was able to attend the competition. They raised the money themselves to fund the trips and wound up winning. Two years later, they returned to Turin, Italy, to play again, once again defending their title and winning the trophy. The sculpture in West Auckland, England, was installed shortly after the centennial of the second win.

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You can walk by at any time.

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