By 90Min
March 11, 2018

As you cast your eye over footage of host nation's Kurt Hamrin scoring one of the greatest goals in World Cup history for Sweden, or the global introduction and emergence of a teenage Pelé going on to lift the first of his three Jules Rimet trophies, it would be preposterous to ponder the factuality of the event. 

However, according to late historian Bror Jacques de Wærn, the public's craving for the drama of the 1958 celebration of football has been paramount in clouding the truth; that the competition did not take place as we believe. 

It is in Swedish director Johan Löfstedt’s 2002 film, Konspiration 58, that the Stockholm-born fact finder revealed his tireless research; concluding that in fact Sweden did not host the 1958 World Cup. Rather, the tournament was staged in the United States of America, as part of a Cold War-era experiment into the power of televised propaganda orchestrated by the CIA, FIFA and influential figures within the television industry.

“The United States needed to test television’s power to influence people”, De Wærn, who spent much of his life working in the Swedish national archive, claimed. “It was a part of the Cold War that was raging at the time. I call it the ‘media race’.

“Right after the championship in 1958, I began collecting thousands of documents, photos and texts. I found one after another that pointed to the strange fact that the 1958 World Cup had never taken place.”

A statement such as this would often be overlooked; cast aside as a frivolous claim or one deemed as an unsanctioned attempt to destabilise the aristocratic rule of the Swedish Football Association; the SvFF. However, the evidence De Wærn unearthed and the questions he posed were challenging to doubt. 

A crucial piece of the historian's claims surrounds the semi final. A famous day in Sweden's footballing legacy as they rose above and dismantled holders West Germany through the brilliance of Hamrin at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg; or so we are led to believe. De Wærn questioned the buildings portrayed in the background of the then 53.500 capacity complex; insisting those seen did not resemble any in the major city on the Göta älv river but belonged over 5,000 miles away in Los Angeles. 

Further proof can be found in the inconsistency of the players' shadows regarding the angle of the sun during Swedish summertime; with the silhouettes cast on the field at that time of year only associated with those of North America. 

The boots eventual winners Brazil donned added even greater scepticism to the event, with De Wærn insisting no such footwear was available, and the overwhelming demands of hosting a World Cup, both financially and logistically, could not be undertaken by a nation such as Sweden in 1958. 

During the documentary, Olof Arnell, the leader of a passionate and militant group who waged a campaign of violence and intimidation against any that opposed De Wærn’s discoveries, is introduced. “No reliable witnesses exist to prove that the World Cup was really played”, he stated.

Understandably, many disputed the researcher's theories, including Hamrin, who stated: “They say there was no World Cup in 1958, all I can say is that I was there for it, so I can’t understand how they can say that. The greatest football memory of my life is of the 1958 World Cup.”

But as Löfstedt’s film progresses, it becomes clear why De Wærn's claims will inevitably be one of the most prominent memories of that year's tournament. “Soon no one will be left who can swear that the World Cup took place here”, former striker Agne Simonsson, who scored Sweden’s second in the final as Brazil claimed a 5-2 win, said.

When Konspiration 58 debuted on Swedish television in 2002, mass outrage greeted the screening. “A lot of the older generation who have vivid memories from the World Cup in 1958, whether they were at the games or just saw them live on TV, got very upset”, Löfstedt said. 

But it was not just those who lived through the spectacle which saw fit to air their opposition, with the director recalling a young man's email following the screening stating: “You should be ashamed”.

However, as the credits rolled at the end of the 30-minute documentary, one final, resoundingly crucial fact was revealed; the entire film was a hoax, and all who appeared were part of it. 

“We wanted to fool as many people as possible”, Löfstedt said. “I thought that if I could make people believe in this story or believe that these people or opinions exist then it would have a great impact on viewers when they realised it was all fiction.

“Some people realised quite soon that the story was fake, another group realised at the end of the film. Some people realised the next day when they [discussed it] with their workmates. But one small group of people didn’t just fall for the hoax; they also thought that the theories were real. That is a scary group of people.”

Though Löfstedt admitted the purpose of the film was to deceive the audience playfully, it also possessed a deeper hidden meaning.

“My friends and I sat discussing a TV programme one night that had aired the day before about famous Holocaust deniers”, he said. “We were all irritated and a bit shocked. We started to joke about things as stupid to deny as the Holocaust. 

“What about denying the existence of the old ten kronor note, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm or a Eurovision song contest? Then we thought about the 1958 World Cup. An hour later we had the plan to make this film. A mockumentary.

“More people than I could imagine didn’t understand that the film was a hoax, and still today that confuses me. It’s a little bit scary how easy it is to fool an audience,

“But I wanted to show people that you shouldn’t believe everything that you see on TV or read on the internet. Everyone should be a critical viewer. After all, where is the line between documentary and fiction?

“However, lots of people still think that there was something strange about the 1958 World Cup. Sometimes I meet people that haven’t seen the film and don’t know anything about the film, but still, they’ve heard that there is something strange about that World Cup.”

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