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 March 28, 2002 | 1210 IST

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Pele shirt scores auction record

The shirt worn by Brazilian soccer ace Pele during his country's 4-1 thrashing of Italy in the final of the 1970 World Cup smashed all records at an auction in London on Wednesday.

The Yellow and green number "10" team shirt sold to a private collector whose telephone bid of 157,750 pounds ($224,600) more than tripled its pre-sale estimate and topped the previous world record by more than 50 percent.

The previous record for a soccer shirt sold at auction was held by Geoff Hurst whose team top from England's 1966 World Cup final 4-2 victory over Germany fetched 91,750 pounds in 2000.

"We are absolutely delighted by the sale of the Pele shirt," Rik Pike, spokesman for auctioneers Christie's, told Reuters. "This is an incredible result."

With the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea just two months away, football fever found an outlet at the auction of 277 lots of soccer memorabilia from shirts to caps, medals, programmes, pictures and comics.


The winners' medal presented to England and Everton defender Ray Wilson after his team's historic 1966 World Cup victory was knocked down for 80,750 pounds -- bang in the middle of its pre-sale estimate.

Another medal with a history attached -- the 1963 UEFA Cup Winners Cup medal originally presented to Tottenham Hotspur and Northern Ireland midfield legend Danny Blanchflower -- also hit the middle of its pre-sale estimate, fetching 10,575 pounds.

It was bought by a fan who had followed Blanchflower's career avidly since the age of four.

The medal, lost for many years, was discovered at the bottom of a claret jug bought for 25 pounds at a market stall in Ealing in west London in 1990.

The collector, who was only interested in the jug, ignored the medals for many years until a relative with an interest spotted the Blanchflower gong and had it valued. The rest is history.

In total the 277 lots fetched 456,000 pounds, setting a record for Christie's soccer memorabilia auctions since they began in 1989.

"This has been a great day," Christie's soccer specialist David Convery told Reuters. "The market for soccer memorabilia is growing and growing. Obviously this being World Cup year helps."

He said the average lot price of just over 1,500 pounds was exceptionally high, but had received a major boost from the two top items -- Pele's shirt and Wilson's medal -- which between then accounted for more than half of the total.

Only too willing to ride the wave, Christie's has already set the date for its next soccer memorabilia auction -- September 24 in London.

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