Born in Milan, in 1921, Silvio Gazzaniga is the artist who designed and created the FIFA World Cup Trophy after its predecessor, the Jules Rimet Cup, was won outright by Brazil in 1970. In researching for this interview, I came across a village called Gazzaniga in the Lombardian province of Bergamo. Is there some family connection there, and would that be the region's insignia on your lapel?
Silvio Gazzaniga: Well, as a matter of fact, I have ties with Bergamo, as my grandfather was from the province. I'm very pleased about that too, as the people are famed for their strong character. However, the insignia is the Ambrogino, a medal the city of Milan awards for civil distinction. I've lived all my life there and have given a lot to the city. Naturally, receiving it was very gratifying and a real honour.

How would you best describe your craft? Do you consider yourself an artist, a sculptor?
I consider myself a sculptor of medals as, aside from the occasional larger works, I've spent my entire life doing medals and trophies, well cups to be more precise. That's my main profession, so to speak.

Your creations are inextricably linked with the world of sport. Have you always worked in this arena?
Yes, although not exclusively. I've also created religious objects. My long-term involvement in sport is due to an enduring collaboration with the Bertoni company, or GDE as they're now called. I've been their artistic director for forty-five years now.

What are some of the larger monuments you have created?
Well, there was the monument to the fallen motorcyclists, among others.

Like the 'Madonna of the Lake', for example?
Yes, but the monuments were mainly in the field of motorcycling. I've always worked for sporting federations. It's my area of expertise. I've also made a reliquary for the relics of St Anthony of Padova, as well as a host of medals commemorating him for monks who where clients of ours. I found that very rewarding and it gave me a rather good living.

I imagine people always ask you about the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Do you enjoy the attention this specific trophy brings, or do you think too much attention is devoted to it, perhaps to the detriment of your religious creations?
No, I enjoy it because it's a very well-conceived and centred piece of work. I also consider it an artistic success, although its importance now goes far beyond its value as a work of art.

Was it the first sporting trophy you ever created?
No, I'd already made a lot of trophies, including one for the wrestling championship. I've also done designs for various sporting federations over the years, like motorcycling, and been very involved with some of them. It's my specialist area after all. I've also worked for the International Olympic Committee.

With regard to the FIFA World Cup, how did you hear about the project to commission a new trophy?
It came about very simply. At the time I was artistic director of the Bertoni company, and we were asked to send some outline designs. For my part, I submitted two. Then I realised if I wanted people to appreciate the trophy's real form and feel, I'd have to make a prototype. So I made one and sent a photo of it into the FIFA Committee in 1971, and they chose my design.

Your decision to work directly with materials and create a model trophy was rather unusual. Did you work this way because you were convinced you had a great concept?
Yes, but mainly because the drawing by itself was insufficient to express the sensations produced by materials. I wanted the Trophy's ruggedness to transmit a sense of power and energy, and its strong and marked lines to evoke dynamism. And I think I was successful in this respect, because the Cup stands out from other purely decorative ones (which are beautiful in their own right) like the British cups, which are very traditional. This Cup has its own personality and, you could say it's a work of sculpture.

Is it true that you were holed up in your study almost an entire week working on it?
Yes, more or less. As for the moulding, I didn't want to add too many details, as it would've cheapened the sculpture and lessened its impact. So I did the sculpture all at once, although there were things to refine later. In fact, at a later stage when FIFA asked to see the actual model, I had to perfect some of the details of geographical regions on the globe, something they considered very important. That was painstaking and slow, but on the whole it was a quick process.

At what stage did you realise you had the finished article?
I knew it once I'd achieved what I'd set out to do. Usually, you don't work without having a specific brief from a company, so it was definitely a risk, both for FIFA and myself. Once I'd completed the model, I knew that I'd successfully done what I'd been trying to do.

Like those painters who are never finished with their works, did there come a moment when you had to say, "Right, that's it! No more!"?
No. With modern objects of art, if you keep on refining them, they lose the originality and spontaneity that initially gave them life.

Your being satisfied with it was obviously of major importance, but when did you realise the public viewed it with admiration?
Someone called to tell me that he admired my creation, which was when I understood it could be appreciated by anyone, and not just lovers of art. Maybe it's because the work is spontaneous. Football fans also understand and appreciate it.

Footballers are not generally known for their appreciation of works of art, but almost all of them are fascinated by your Trophy. Why do you think that is?
I'd say it's because it was made in an appropriate way and appeals directly to them.

You said once that you wanted to bring together the athlete and the world in your trophy.
Yes, that's right. As this is the World Cup, it's only logical that the world should form part of the Trophy. Of course the world is spherical and, as such, very similar to a ball. The human figures that emerge from the base material extend upwards and support the world, which I also imagined as a ball.

You also said you wanted the Trophy to symbolise effort, harmony and peace. Can you tell us what you meant by that?
And dynamism too. The idea was to create something symbolising exertion, dynamism and the jubilation of an athlete in the moment of victory, with all the joy that contains. The seemingly irregular volumes are what give it its sense of dynamism, but in reality it has a harmonious energy of its own. The figures that emerge from the rough base material evoke a sense of jubilation in victory.

Some experts have claimed it is your Trophy's spiralling shape that has made it a success.
It does ascend helicoidally, and it's this ascension that gives it its harmony, or more precisely its powerful harmony, energy and dynamism.

Where did the idea for those malachite rings come from?
Malachite is a precious stone, and it fitted the sculpture well because it's green, like a football field. It also gives a touch of colour to the Trophy, which, I think, suits it. If it were all metal, it might appear a little dull. And as I said, it is a precious material.

Do you know when you were making the Trophy that FIFA intended to engrave the names of all the winners on it?
No, I didn't. If you look at it, you'll see that it has small plates on the front for the inscription. There are also smaller plates at the back, which also have a decorative function. (If I'd known) I'd have put a bigger plate where you could put the word FIFA, the winner's name and the year of his victory.

Did you know that the winners' names are engraved underneath?
No, I didn't know that.

Did you ever see the Jules Rimet Trophy?
Yes, I had seen it before I designed my one, and I think it was also well-conceived and well-made. But I didn't just want to create a copy of it. I think it was stolen anyway, wasn't it? It was a cup that represented the era in which it was made very well, just as I think mine does.

The sculptor who created the original trophy was a man named Abel Lafleur. Had you heard tell of him?
Yes. At home I have some information on him and even a photo from an old newspaper in which he's mentioned. He was French, I believe.

You rightly mentioned that the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen. Are you afraid on some level that the same thing might happen to your creation?
Well, you can see why someone would be tempted, what with it being solid gold, but it wouldn't be a disaster, as we made a copy using scagliola (a marble-effect Italian plaster) and could use that to create another. The Jules Rimet Trophy, on the other hand, being less sculpted and made from gold, would have to be made directly from metal. The two processes are very different. The process used in making my Trophy is the same one used on larger statues: first you make a sketch; then you make a preliminary model from clay; and then you do it in scagliola. From that you can extract a mold in wax. A 'lost wax' method is then used for casting, so-called because the wax cavity is later melted and replaced by gold, bronze or whatever metal you're using. That's how my Cup was made.

The Trophy was first unveiled to the public when it was presented to Germany as winners the 1974 FIFA World Cup™. Franz Beckenbauer was the first player ever to lift the Cup. Can you remember where you were and what you felt at that moment?
I can't recall where I was on that occasion, but I clearly remember the day Italy won it (in 1982). I was at home at the time, and there were countless people rejoicing in the streets. It looked like they'd gone mad. I remember it so well as it was Italy's triumph.

Is it true you once said the Cup will always have a little bit of Italy in it?
Seeing as it was made by an Italian, it's only logical that there will always a bit of Italy in it.

Of course, the paradox is that if Brazil had not beaten Riva's Italy team in 1970, you might never have had the chance to create this Trophy.
That's sport for you. The ball is round, and that means it has to rotate. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the opposition and accept defeat. That's part of sportsmanship.

Although you cannot remember Beckenbauer lifting the Trophy, do normally watch the FIFA World Cup Finals?
Yes, of course. I'm not a diehard football fan, but I really enjoy big games and finals, and try never to miss them.

Traditionally, prominent officials, from presidents to heads of state, hand the Trophy to the winning captain. How does it feel to see your creation handled by such important figures?
It's obviously very satisfying to see that, but it's all part of the game.

The Trophy seems to produce a mix of reverence and euphoria in those players who lift it, and it is practically venerated by the general public. How does that make you feel?
I would modestly suggest that this intense affection for the Trophy comes from the object itself, and what it stands for. It is a symbol of victory, and they're thrilled to have won it, which is why they kiss it as they would kiss a religious relic.

What do you think of the assertion that Italy has given the world two wonderful works of art: the Mona Lisa painting and your Trophy?
Come on now! There's no sense in a comparison like that. The Mona Lisa is of a different quality and is in a whole different category. I appreciate the compliment, but that's an exaggeration.

Modesty aside, you have to accept that every time the Trophy is exhibited, the queues that form would not look out of place at the Louvre.
That is true, but that's because, on some level, they understand this Trophy better than they understand the Gioconda. You need some training or knowledge of art to understand all of Da Vinci's subtleties. The trophy can be understood by anyone, perhaps not completely, but it's still a great popular symbol and touches people.

And here it is, just to remind you.
(Holding the Trophy) It's very heavy, isn't it? It looks like it needs a good clean. Even as it is, it's still beautiful. It's like seeing a son or daughter come home after a long time away. In fact, a work of art is a bit like one's child, as it's a creation. And I'm not just talking about the World Cup: the same is true for every thing I did. So many works or art! It's very interesting to see it again.

All the former winners say a little piece of them will always be imprinted on the Trophy. The same could be said of you?
Although they've won the title, I think there is more of me than them in this Cup. It really is a part of me.

The Honorary FIFA President, Joao Havelange, said on holding the Trophy: "I get older and older, but this Cup stays forever young."
I could say the same, as I too am an old man. However, works of art can endure. One of the most satisfying things about a work of art is that they can survive the passage of time. Life, on the other hand, is fleeting.

Did you ever imagine when you created the Trophy that more than 30 years later it would become this incredibly potent symbol and would be toured all around the world?
Not at all. I didn't think it would become so important, particularly to young people, or that it would come to represent peace. I'm very proud to have done my little bit to help spread peace in the world through sport. Sport brings people and nations together, and is much more important than many of us believe.