We examine the design and craft that went into the brand-new trophy that will be lifted for the first time in Tirana.
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"This is the culmination of months of work." You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s a club manager speaking after his team have won a European title. But they are actually the words of Alberto Iacovacci, whose company made the brand new UEFA Europa Conference League trophy.
The stunning 11kg, 57.5cm prize is a monument to Italian production talent and boasts a distinctive English design. The eye is instantly drawn to the 32 hexagonal bars that stretch upwards from the base in a graceful curve. These spines represent every team in the group stage of the tournament and, according to designer Jon Marshall, "the flight of the ball when a free-kick is struck towards goal".
Creating the vision
Bringing Marshall’s vision to life wasn’t straightforward for Avellino-based Iaco Group, as CEO Iacovacci explains. "It’s very difficult to bend precious metals; it has to be done at very high temperatures and with hand-held tools. Finding the way to make these long pieces took over a year. Manipulating and polishing them was problematic and required many attempts with different methods."
The whole operation was primarily completed by hand, with precision machinery involved for about a third of the process. Constructing such an intricate creation was a source of pride for the masterly metalsmiths. "Everything from the challenges of the geometry to the material gave us huge motivation to deliver something of maximum quality," says Iacovacci. "We have worked on many cups, including the European Championship Henri Delaunay Cup and the Nations League, but this is one of our most unusual trophies. It’s modern and classic at the same time, and very elegant. It will be very emotional when the winning captain raises it to the sky for the first time."
Concept of 'openness'
And we will witness more of the victorious skipper than normal, says Marshall. "The concept of ‘openness’ runs through this project: UEFA developed this tournament to open up a chance of glory for clubs from smaller cities and towns. So we came up with a literal manifestation of openness, between the spines. You will see the players’ faces through the lower half of the cup when they lift it and are passing it around. And the gold sections will produce a warm glow on their expressions of joy.
"I usually design consumer electronics like phones and laptops, which have a shelf life of three to five years,” says Marshall. "This was a real honour, and hopefully the competition and trophy will be around for a long, long time."