For 31 days, starting June 14, the focus of much of the world will be one major sporting event in Russia. We’re talking about 12 stadiums in 11 cities, 24 goal posts, 32 teams and coaches, 64 matches, 99 referees and sideline judges, 736 players, 3,240 balls (although only 64 are technically required) and one trophy. Taken together, this will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The bare-bone statistics appear to be remarkably bereft of diamonds. Even the FIFA World Cup trophy, which in its current version has been around since 1974, is made of 5 kilograms of 18K gold, standing on a malachite base. It includes not even one of the world’s most sought-after gemstone.
But no important event, sporting or otherwise, can be completely diamond-free, and certainly not the FIFA World Cup. The following are just some examples that indicate that when it comes to points in football, not all are on the pitch.
WORLD CUP SPONSOR
The 2018 edition will be the first FIFA World Cup to have diamond-mining company as an official sponsor. In April, Alrosa, the Russian rough diamond producer, received the rights to associate its brand with the football tournament, as well as the right to promote its connection with the event on social media.
During the more than four weeks of the tournament, Alrosa will be represented on advertising surfaces at all 12 football arenas, and will be able to present its products – that is to say, diamonds – in special zones at the World Cup venues.
Russia’s football squad is one of the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition. In contrast, Alrosa currently ranks first in terms of world diamond production, already making the Alrosa Group a champion in the sector.
DIAMOND STAR POWER
While just days before the start of the 2018 World Cup, Argentinian Lionel Messi edged out Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s highest-earning football player, with $111 million per annum in salary and endorsements, to $108 million for Ronaldo.
However, the Portuguese star, who also lagged behind Messi in World Cup goals prior to Russia 2018 – 3 to Lionel’s 5, although he struck home an additional three in Portugal’s opening game this competition – is certainly more prominently associated with diamonds than the diminutive Argentinian. While he does not wear them on the pitch – for they could fall off, after all – Ronaldo is fond of wearing prominent diamond studs in his ears. In 2012 he reportedly spent more than $13,000 dollars on a pair of fancy black diamond earrings.
Cristiano Ronaldo, sporting diamond-studded earrings, alongside the diamond-encrusted CR7 football boots, on display at his museum back home in Portugal. (Photo of football boots courtesy of Nike.)
Ronaldo also has his own museum, called Museu CR7, which is located in his home city of Funchal in Portugal. Dedicated to himself, it features several pairs of diamond-encrusted football boots. One of the pairs is called the “Mercurial CR7 Rare Gold” boots, which was created by Nike, the Portuguese forward’s sponsor. They were presented after winning the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best football player in 2015, and they feature micro-diamonds encrusted onto the CR7 logo towards the heel.
THE DIAMONDS THAT ALMOST RUINED THE WORLD CUP
In 1970, the players of England’s football team traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, to play the first of two friendly matches ahead the start of the defense in Mexico of their championship title, which they had won in 1966.
But scandal struck before the game, when the English captain, Bobby Moore, was arrested for allegedly stealing a diamond and emerald bracelet from the Fuego Verde jewelry store in the lobby of the Hotel Tequendama, where the team was staying. He spent four days in jail before the British prime minister, Harold Wilson, managed to convince the Colombian government to release him and let him rejoin the team.
Scandals invariably produce conspiracy theories, and for years some in the British press suggested that the incident was part of a Latin American plot against the 1966 World Cup champions and England’s footballing hero. As it was, England crashed out of the 1970 World Cup in the Quarter Final stage, after losing 3-2 to West Germany, and prior to 2018, at the very least, has never repeated as World Cup Champion. A Latin American team did take the championship that year. It was Brazil, which led by a true footballing diamond, one Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé.
Bobby Moore in better days, after England’s winning the championship at the World Cup in 1966.