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  • The National Football Museum and the FIFA World Football Museum
  • Daniel Haxall

Despite a history that spans over 150 years, soccer has only recently become the focus of national and international museums. Today's era of museum construction coincides with the increased academic study of the game, and two museums have distinguished themselves as custodians of soccer's history while becoming popular venues for English-speaking audiences: the National Football Museum in Manchester, England, and the FIFA World Football Museum in Zürich, Switzerland.

A joint initiative between the English Football Association and League, FIFA, and other agencies created the original framework for the National Football Museum (NFM) in 1995. The museum first opened at Preston's Deepdale Stadium in 2001 and moved to downtown Manchester in 2012. Dubbing itself the "biggest" soccer museum in the world, the NFM attracts over 500,000 visitors per year and boasts a massive collection of over 140,000 objects, including the FIFA-Langton, Football Association, and Football League collections, as well as the UEFA library. Situated within the striking glass façade of the Urbis Building, the museum features an open first floor that accommodates "pop-up" events and allows visitors to pose for photos with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies.

The permanent collection begins on Level 1 and is organized into a thematic yet chronological history. Topics include, among other subjects, the game, a section featuring forerunners of modern football and a timeline of soccer's history; fans, an area devoted to fan cultures ranging from collectibles to hooliganism; competition, with a touchscreen database of every English league table since the 1888/89 season; stadiums, a study of evolving design and safety features at football grounds; the media, where diverse forms of journalism and broadcasts are chronicled; clubs, a celebration of famous teams within men's and women's soccer; players, a study of iconic and historically significant athletes; and competition, a history of major tournaments. While the NFM focuses on the English game, particularly the league system and national teams, a global context runs throughout the exhibitions.

The second part of the permanent collection begins on Level 2, which introduces visitors to more general aspects of soccer, including its rules, officials, uniforms, equipment, managers, and training tactics. Interactive displays allow fans to dress up in vintage kits, diagnose injuries through X-rays, and play with a variety of soccer-themed toys. "Football Plus+" offers another way to engage the material. An additional entry fee grants access to various games throughout the museum, including penalty shootouts, goalkeeper saves, and match commentaries. Level 3 hosts temporary exhibitions, with approximately two new shows opening each year. "Pelé: Art, Life, Football" and "The Beautiful Frame: Animation and Sport" are on view until late winter 2018, while previous exhibitions included "Pitch to Pixel: The World of Football Gaming" (2015–16) and "The Greater Game: Football and the First World War" (2014–15). Level 4 houses the "Learning Zone," a classroom for school visits and children's activities, while Levels 5 and 6 contain a suite for events. [End Page 96]

Although not as bold in design as the NFM's Urbis Building, the FIFA World Football Museum (FWFM) occupies a modern edifice adjacent to a major train station in southwestern Zürich. The FWFM opened in February 2016 with a much smaller collection of "1000 exhibits," including photographs, memorabilia, and documents. The museum entrance flanks one of two cafés on site. Greeting visitors on the ground floor is "The Rainbow," a collection of jerseys from each of the 209 nations comprising FIFA. An adjacent timeline organizes the history of the game into four categories: the evolving rules of competition from 1863 to the present; the dates each nation joined FIFA membership; the history of international competitions; and the tenure of every FIFA president.

The museum directs visitors fluidly through its three levels and offers a free phone app to supplement the experience. The first level features "The Foundations," a brief introduction to the origins of the game with accompanying touchscreens that list the international record and ranking for each member nation. The highlight of this floor, and the entire museum, is the "FIFA...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2155-8455
Print ISSN
0094-1700
Pages
pp. 96-98
Launched on MUSE
2018-04-27
Open Access
No
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