The Swiss metropole Zurich is FIFA city. Even if you haven’t ever seen them from inside, the headquarters of the most important individual sports federation in the Zurich hills is majestic and impressive. Thus, it is not that surprising that the FIFA also installed a public temple of soccer in their hometown. Though the FIFA World Football Museum is situated in Zurich, it is regarded to tell you a global story of the sports. I was very interested in how it for example compares to the Hockey Hall of Fame when I visited it in late October 2018. I had high expectations towards the place and was really curious whether it will meet it.
FIFA Museum – Location & Admission
If you leave the S Bahn trains at Zurich-Enge train station, it will definitely be hard to miss the FIFA World Football Museum. It is directly located at the Tessinerplatz in front of Enge, which also offers numerous tram connections. The exact adress is Seestrasse 25. The FIFA Hotel Ascot is across the street. Lake Zurich is just a short walk away.
The museum opens at 10am and closes at 6pm on Fridays and Saturday, 7pm all other days. The museum does not open on Mondays. The adult admission is 24 CHF, which is comparably reasonable for a Swiss museum.
FIFA Museum – The Exhibition
You enter the museum through a comparably tiny entrance. The ground level exhibition is called “Planet Football”. From there, you typically use stairs to go down to Level -2. There is an exhibition about “The Foundations” and “The FIFA World Cup Gallery”, which concludes with a soccer movie. From there you enter Level 1 for “The Fields of Play”. You exit through the shop in 2nd floor, from where you go down back to the entrance area. Regarding the number of altitude meters you walk, this could rather be an Alpine Club Hall of Fame. If you by the way are not too confused already, you might have missed Level -1. There are no exhibits at this level.
Level 0 – Planet Football
Your first steps in the FIFA exhibition are just as you would expect them to be: overwhelming. Planet Football shows the history and geographical spread of the sports (is there any country missing). The core eyecatcher thereby is likely the rainbow-alike presentation of all national team kits of all member associations.
The national team / member association kit exhibition is accompanied by the history of FIFA on one wall. In The Timeline, you find all FIFA presidents, the development of the rules, the development of the member associations as well as important events like World Championships. Overall, this leads to a very promising beginning of the exhibition.
Level -2 – Planet Football
Going down two levels to Planet Football is really impressive as well, with words around the sports shown on one wall. The first part of this level majorly deals with the global importance of soccer. For example, you can see examples of all the different competiions the FIFA is organizing, including less-in-focus ones like Beach Soccer or the Junior World Cups. In this area, there are also interactive screens where you can not only learn about the success of the current member associations and much more. For example, you see, how much funding the local associations receive from FIFA for development (which can be quite much, compared to the country size).
Thereafter, you enter an area which is fully dedicated to the FIFA World Cups. It also holds the original FIFA trophies for men and women. The women exhibition is comparably small, but quite nicely illustrated and selected.
One part of the exhibition about the Men’s World Cup is made up very similarly to the women one. However, there are some very nice additional ideas. You may for example try to identify the World Cup mascots just by touching them or dance original goal scoring dances. I also liked the idea that you can try out different World Cup stadium seats and compare them. This seating section is also the waiting area for the next section, a cinema.
The cinema section is mandatory, you cannot pass it. You enter the cinema from the rear. After the some ten minute movie, you exit through doors in the screen and take the elevator to Fields of Play. The movie is a potpourri of soccer and World Cup moments and shall “emotionalize” you by that. Honestly, at this point, the exhibition (which really liked so far) started to get worse. I also could not understand why you have to show people like Joseph Blatter. The screen is some 180 degrees, so that it is at least technically quite amazing. The glass elevator to second floor also passes Planet Football again (no way to enter / exit), which is giving quite nice views from another angle.
Level 1 – Fields of Play
It is hard to say what Fields of Play is really about. Maybe, you should translate it to “Global influence of soccer”. It tells stories about how the sports influenced things. On the first picture, for example, you see stamps and letters about FIFA World Cups. There are also social projects and improvements, which are shown on video screens, or a Moroccan girl being a top level referee in the Moroccan (men) league. On the other hand, you also find the beanie of legendary Faroe Island’s goalie Jens Martin Knudsen. One section I especially liked was that you are able to listen to FIFA World Cup songs – not just the official ones, but also some which were very present during the tournament.
Level 1 – Pinball
Finally, it does not add any education to the museum, but Pinball is definitely enjoyable and fun. First you register with your entrance ticket, which gives you a name of a soccer player. Then, you have five different stations, where you need to do something with a soccer ball. In one section, you do free kicks, in another you dribble etc. With each section, you receive additional balls for the Multiball, which is just like a soccer pinball machine. It gets quite stressful if you made all five extra balls, though. All these sections lead to a total score – of course there is a leaderboard. This part is also very attractive if you travel with children, of course.
FIFA Museum – Services & Events
The most important service in the FIFA World Football Museum is of course the soccer souvenir store you just have to pass through at the end of the visit. There are some quite interesting items like replicas of historic national team dresses. You may just select items of the “big soccer nations” (men soccer, of course!), though. In addition, you may select from a range of soccer books, including few of female athletes. There is even a soccer boot signed by Messi. Unfortunately, no price given.
The museum comes with three refreshment facilities (all outside the ticketed area), a Cafe-bar and a bistro on Level 2 and a Sports Bar close to the entrance with additional doors to street level. I just quickly checked the prices of the bistro, which felt to be quite fine.
At least parts of Level -1 are used for the public of the museum: there is wardrobe and a narrow toilet. The lockers are quite cool, as they are not just numbered, but also named after different soccer stars. Overall, the toilets all over the museum were fine, but not too overwhelming.
Part of the museum is also a library, which is advertised to have roughly 7,000 items. Unfortunately, the library is having more limited opening hours. This includes that the library is not open on weekends. Thus, I could not visit the place.
FIFA Museum – My View
Before I entered the FIFA World Football Museum, I already knew: either it will be an overwhelming visit – or I will be disappointed. Unfortunately, it is the second one. I just expect the FIFA to deliver an amazing museum. They got all the potential to do so – financially and also the way the sports is organized internationally. The first impression is maybe a bit lousy, but you really get flashed of Planet Football – unfortunately the exhibition just gets the weaker the longer it takes. After being on the very lowest floor, women soccer does not play a role at all. Junior Soccer? In fact not existing. Beach soccer and Futsal? Extremely limited exhibits.
Too politic or too small?
For me, there are two key reasons for this partial failure: first of all, there is too much politics in that sports. You have to deliver certain stories just to make every federation and official happy – and then you miss that space for things which would really be worth to show. This also directs to the second key fact: the museum is nicely located, but the exhibition space is just too small. It starts so good, the first two sections are so good – and then, it just feels something is missing. I would feel an appropriate soccer museums needs at least double or triple the space. So the museum to me is like the walk through it – full of ups and downs, ending with a walk downstairs. Or in soccer words: FIFA played an excellent first half of the match, but then just refused to play on. Bad luck! Regarding soccer museums, I had a much better time at Old Trafford, for example.