On at 11:02 CEST
Javier Giraldo – Amsterdam (Special Envoy)
On July 11, the captain of the winning team will lift the Euro Cup trophy at Wembley. He will do it, probably without knowing that this trophy is named after a Frenchman who died in 1955 who started out as a footballer to try his luck as a referee before making history as a sports manager.
Born in Paris in 1883, Henri Delaunay is an essential character to understand European football. Although his name, which baptizes the Euro Cup trophy, is not particularly well known among football fans, his legacy is fundamental in the construction of footballing Europe.
A member of a bourgeois family, Delaunay started playing for the Étoile des Deux Lacs, a relatively popular Parisian team at the time, when French football was a puzzle of clubs and various competitions.
Delaunay, with a picture of the Coupe de France, in 1947
Retired as a player, Delaunay entered the world of arbitrationBut the experience did not go too well for him: in a match between AF Garenne-Doves and Benevolence, he was hit hard in the face, swallowed the whistle and lost two teeth.
First experiences as a manager
He left arbitration and dedicated himself to sports management. He was president of the Étoile and general secretary of the French Inter-Federal Committee (CFI), the forerunner of the French Football Federation. He was one of the creators of the Coupe de France. He was also a member of FIFA.
There he met Jules Rimet. In 1928, both came up with the idea of creating a soccer world championship, which would start two years later..
However, Delaunay’s big dream was to start a European international tournament. Already in the early 1920s he had suggested the possibility of creating an international club championship, and in 1927 he was inspired by the America’s Cup to bring his idea to Europe. He proposed to start a similar championship, for national teams, but his idea remained in the pipeline for years.
UEFA’s first steps
A founding member of UEFA, Delaunay was the first general secretary of the organization, founded in 1954. He passed away a year later, in 1955. He did not have time to see his great dream come true. His son Pierre took over as UEFA general secretary.
The Eurocup became reality in 1960: It was an atypical tournament with an air of experiment, with 16 teams facing back and forth matches. The Soviet Union won, beating Yugoslavia in the final.
The trophy has since been named after its inspirer: 8 kilos of weight and 60 centimeters of height that condense 60 years of soccer in Europe.