FIFA’s World Football Museum opened its shiny doors in late February of this year. As you get your ticket and start walking towards the exhibits, you can’t help but feel the same exciting, heart-fluttering tingle you get when a great match gets underway. Even the coat check is meant to foster excitement; for one euro or one Swiss franc, you can walk into a “locker room” and get to pick your favorite player’s locker – decked out in their flag’s colors and their name emblazoned across the front. You go from sheer joy – running around the locker room looking at the names of so many greats in one place – to feeling the agony of defeat when you see that Pele’s, Messi’s, and Marta’s lockers are already taken. Damn you, early birds! Overall, the museum (located in Zurich, Switzerland) not only offers some interesting facts and memorabilia, but interactive exhibits and a friendly staff. Here are some things we learned and suggestions for improvement.
Stadium seats are not created equal.
If you’ve been lucky enough to attend games in other countries – even different cities in the U.S. – you may have noticed a difference in design of stadium seats. The FIFA Museum had roughly 40 seats from different stadiums all over the world (but predominantly from Brazil, South Korea, Japan, and Germany) next to one another for easy comparison. This was the most racially and ethnically diverse exhibit – except for the display of the kits of every (male) team associated with FIFA.
Beach Soccer Champs: El Salvador?!
Embarrassingly enough, a lot of my Salvadoran heritage is demonstrated by eating pupusas and calling kids “cipotes.” Needless to say, I have a lot more to learn about my father’s homeland. I didn’t realize I would be reminded of that when I went to the FIFA World Footy Museum. I never knew El Salvador’s Beach Football squad was good, let alone great. El Salvador ranks no. 1 in CONCACAF Beach Soccer, and no. 5 in Beach Soccer worldwide. It is also the only country in the CONCACAF Confederation to qualify four consecutive times in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Thanks to the exhibit featuring capitán José Agustín Ruiz, FIFA got me all misty-eyed as I learned about how this team partially composed of local fisherman (like Tin Ruiz) have gone on to become international powerhouses.
The World Cup Trophies don’t look as intense close-up, but they are still cool.
Even under sparkly lights and in glass cases, the men’s and women’s World Cup Trophies look unassuming. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a line of people trying to take selfies with them though… and that you won’t want one too.
Women and Children Last
The museum is brand new and engaging – lots of interactive exhibits and interesting architecture – but we shouldn’t be surprised that the women and youth teams are literally on the fringes. Exhibits consisting of women are minor and located in the corners of main showrooms. This was strange, considering the demographics of the museum visitors on the day I went; it was roughly 50 percent female, while a small percentage of visitors were children. Clearly, I’m not saying that women and children will only care about athletes that look like them, but I do think it’s strange that FIFA wouldn’t honor these athletes without appearing so obviously apathetic. While I’m not shocked FIFA cares less about the women’s and youth teams, they should have just called it the “FIFA Men’s (Western) World Football Museum.”
Be the change you wish to see in this World (Football Museum).
Though the FIFA museum isn’t terribly inclusive, you can change this. If you give FIFA a memorable trinket or keepsake, they will display it in their memory jars alongside your name – giving you a right to brag that you’re featured in the FIFA World Museum alongside the many of the greats.
Overall, the FIFA museum was engaging and interesting, but it didn’t tell the full story – even with the men. Things like Maradona’s Hand of God goal, Zidane’s head-butt, and the backlash to Chastain’s iconic jersey removal were not discussed. So, if you plan to visit, be sure to BYOK (bring your own knowledge) too.
Cheapskate tip: If you tell them you’re a student, they’ll offer a discount – and won’t even ask for a student ID. This is the kind of corruption we can stand behind.