One of the most sought-after prizes in all of sports is on Canadian soil for the first time.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy, making its inaugural visit to Canada, landed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Wednesday morning along with Canadian musician K'naan, the artist behind Wavin' Flag, the official anthem of the World Cup Trophy World Tour.
The trophy's visit to Toronto is the only Canadian stop on an eight-month, five-continent and 83-country trip around the world. When it is over, the tour will have travelled close to 140,000 kilometres — more than three times the circumference of Earth.
K'naan said he has been blown away by the reception the trophy has received from people as he has travelled the globe.
'Honestly, my heart was pounding. I still have the shakes. I can't believe I was that close to the Cup."—Nick,Toronto-area soccer fan
"It's like [meeting] the Pope. It's really amazing the kind of reaction that the trophy gets from different parts of the world," K'naan told CBC before he left the plane.
"In some of the [countries] where we land the president would be on the tarmac to greet us and to say thanks for bringing the World Cup. It's pretty amazing."
The musician, who was born in Somalia, also learned a lot about the world and its people during the tour.
"The commonality far outweighs the differences. It's very simply and very silly, the quarrels of the world … when you see life going on as it does in different parts of the world, how people are so similar," K'naan said.
K'naan listed Madagascar and Vietnam as two of his favourite places he has visited on the tour with the trophy. He also expressed disappointment that a tour stop could not be arranged in Somalia, considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
"It's unfortunate," he said.
After checking through customs, the trophy headed for downtown Toronto. It appeared in the atrium of the CBC building in the late afternoon for a public viewing where 3,000 fans were expected to have their photo taken with it. Fans also has a cance to view a special 3-D movie showcasing memorable moments of the World Cup, and participate in interactive displays.
"I love the passion for the sport, I love the game and I had to see it for my very own eyes," Toronto-area soccer fan Nick told CBCSports.ca. "Nothing can beat it — being that close to the trophy, it's unbelievable."
The Italian national team supporter was wearing an Azzurri jersey as he had his picture taken while standing next to the trophy.
"Honestly, my heart was pounding. I still have the shakes. I can't believe I was that close to the Cup," Nick said just minutes after the experience.
K'naan also performed a short private concert at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio.
"The World Cup Trophy coming to Canada will help fuel the excitement for what is going to be a tremendous tournament," said Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports. "We're pleased to play host to the Coke trophy tour at the CBC building. It strengthens our connection to the event."
Made of gold
The tour began its journey from the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, and soccer's greatest prize has already been greeted by several dozen heads of state, including Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kurfour, and millions of soccer fans around the world.
The World Cup Trophy has been awarded to the winning nation at each World Cup tournament since the inaugural 1930 competition in Uruguay. Since then, only seven nations have won it: Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina and France.
The trophy stands 36.8 centimetres high, weighs 6.1 kilograms and is made of solid, 18-carat gold.
The winning team retains the trophy for four years until the next tournament and is awarded a replica that is gold-plated, rather than solid gold. The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite, and the bottom side of the trophy bears the engraved year and name of each World Cup winner since 1974.
Dominic Maestracci, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, said he hopes the trophy's arrival will help develop interest in the sport in Canada.
"What is important for Canadian people is to have a chance to see the trophy," said Maestracci. "I think Canada was fortunate to be selected by FIFA.
"I think it's a good thing for the development of our sport, sure."
Canada has qualified for the World Cup once, in 1986 in Mexico.
While fans in Toronto will get to have their photo taken with the trophy, the privilege of holding it is reserved for heads of state and members of World Cup winning teams.
The trophy will remain in Toronto until Friday, when it will be sent to Miami.