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Flying by Mt Everest with the World Cup

On board Flight ORYUE: For the second time in almost four years, a flight this oddly named is dipping in and out of countries. Its most precious occupant: a bald top statuette of 6.3 kg of solid gold travels as cabin baggage.

sports Updated: Dec 23, 2013 00:24 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

On board Flight ORYUE: For the second time in almost four years, a flight this oddly named is dipping in and out of countries. Its most precious occupant: a bald top statuette of 6.3 kg of solid gold travels as cabin baggage.

That was where the World Cup trophy stayed on the journey to Kolkata. Soon after take-off, Mt Everest appeared on the left. Brilliant in its cragginess, the sunlight reflecting off the snow it looked at its Sunday best. The soupy light of a cold Kathmandu morning was well behind us, literally and otherwise.

The 40-seater aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas 83, has a media area in front where events around the World Cup trophy are held. It is a leased plane, painted bright red with green imprints of football and birds in yellow.

That’s not how it has always been, according to a member of the crew that is five-strong including pilots and a mechanic. “This plane and crew has flown Danish soldiers to Afghanistan,” said the crew member. “And to touristy spots in Europe in summer.”

Since September 12 though, it is travelling around the world with the World Cup trophy. It is a journey that began and will end in Rio de Janeiro. It will last nine months and at, 150,000 km,circumnavigate the globe three times over. Fifa representative Jan Schetters claimed that it is carbon neutral, the footprints off-set by a tree planting initiative in Costa Rica is association with Coca-Cola, the trophy tour partners.

“One day, you are in the bustle of Dubai, its tall buildings and hours later you are in the silence that is Bhutan,” said Pedro Verissimo of Brazilian media house O Globo who has been travelling and writing on this trip.This is Verissimo’s first trip to Asia. Like the crew, and representative from Fifa, they work in shifts. “It’s too long to do it any other way,” said Schatters who is from Holland and hence refuses to talk about the last World Cup final.

The trophy travels in a security blanket. The South African monitoring the process of fans taking photographs wears a shaved head and looks like a participant in the WWE; only you wouldn’t want to find out whether he is mean for real.

That man whose identity Schatters refused to disclose gets paid to stand in attention by the glass case inside which the trophy stands. He did that at the Dashrath Rangashala in Kathmandu as 8000 braved the afternoon chill on Saturday and in the evening at the official hotel. And he will do that in Kolkata over the next three days where more are expected.

The writer’s trip was sponsored by Coca-Cola