In a modern sporting world full of money grabbing owners, dodgy half and half scarves, and underperforming-overpaid stars, it is easy to fall out of love with the game. However, there is a beacon of light in the ever-darkening world of football, a reminder of why of why we should give the game a second chance.
Based in Manchester City Centre’s impressive Urbis building for just over a year, the National Football Museum has already attracted over 500,000 visitors since its move from Preston, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
The museum prides itself on being the world’s biggest and best football museum, and despite the voice of John Motson commentating your journey in the lift, it is difficult to argue. Containing artefacts from the rare to the obscure, the museum provides a thorough run-through of the development of football from its origins to the present day.
The museum boasts a huge wealth of interactive content, with either touch screens or headphones adorning almost every wall. The focus on interaction can even been seen in the lifts, with John Motson bleeting out which floor number you are on. The biggest talking point is probably the second floor’s penalty shootout challenge. While £5 for three penalties is probably a little steep, the chance to take a spot-kick at the same goal that Gazza famously scored in against Scotland at Euro 96′ is one not to be missed—even if two of our group were denied by the crossbar. There is ever the chance to be part of the Match of the Day team, under the tutelage of Gary Lineker, with a chance to commentate on a Premier League game of your choice.
This year celebrates the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the world’s first Football League in Manchester. The museum explores the changes in the league over the year, and the characters who helped shaped football as we know it, such as Herbert Chapman, Stanley Matthews and George Best.
If you are a long suffering fan, or a new suffering fan in the case of a certain Manchester team, you can relive your team’s glory days on the third floor of the Museum with invaluable trophies from the Football league that are no longer used, Wembley clackers, as well as my personal favourite the old fashioned ribbon badges.
It also offers something for the die hards—the Sunday morning sticker swap. Whether it is for the World Cup, or the Premier League, you can get rid of one of your three Yaya Toure and pick up the Shiny Columbia team badge you have been hunting for.
Well worth a mention is the photography provided by Stuart Roy Clarke, which gives a raw insight into the largely unseen side of football. In his new collection on the museum’s ground floor, Clarke provides 18 photographs taken at the biggest games of the 2012/13 season. Using shots of fans both inside and outside of grounds, Clarke features a wide range of clubs from the Premiership matches at Old Trafford, to Northern League matches in Whitley Bay.
The museum is by no means the glorious ode to the national game which you would perhaps expect. Significant sections of the first floor pay homage to football’s chequered past. There are powerful exhibits dedicated to issues such as crowd trouble, stadium safety, and sexism, all of which to some extent continue to exist in the game to this day. The exhibit on women’s football in particular is a poignant reminder of how far the game has come since women’s teams were eventually allowed to play in FA grounds in 1971.
After the problems experienced with racism, biting, and the likes in recent years, the National Football Museum provides a welcome reminder of why we ought to be proud to be football supporters in the 21st century. In the era of the £83 million transfer, the museum reminds us that football, without fans, is nothing.
The museum is free to enter, although a £4 donation upon entry or exit is recommended. It is open 10am til 5pm Monday-Saturday, and 11am til 5pm on Sundays. For information on upcoming exhibitions go to www.nationalfootballmuseum.com.
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