FIFA unearths Olympic treasures

Saturday 23 June 2012 marks Olympic Day, which is celebrated all around the world. Thousands of people, young and old, participate in events that spread Olympic ideals to every corner of the globe.

Olympic Day was introduced in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on 23 June 1894 in Paris. Nowadays, Olympic Day is based on the three pillars “move”, “learn” and “discover” which is exactly what did this week.

Moving down to the Documentation Centre five levels below ground level at the Home of FIFA, we wanted to learn and discover what hidden Olympic treasures lay in the archives.

In recent months, a specialist Swiss archiving organisation has been carefully sifting through FIFA’s collection of tournament memorabilia, match programmes, trophies, balls, match tickets, commemorative coins, stamps and press clippings, collated over the years through a combination of auction purchases and donations.

Earlier this year, FIFA announced its plans to extend its headquarters in Zurich to feature a football museum which will include 3D animations, interactive games and a public display of many of these artefacts.

This summer’s Olympic Games will be held in London, the third time the Games have been to England’s capital city, following 1908 and 1948.

In almost mint condition, two of our first discoveries were a Competitor’s Card and the Olympic football rules and regulations book, both from the 1908 Games. Eight teams entered the competition - two from France and one each from Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain, Hungary and Bohemia, although the latter two later withdrew. The hosts eventually won the first Olympic football gold medal after defeating Denmark 2-0 in front of 8,000 supporters at White City Stadium. A photo of the Team GB squad can be found in the gallery.

Forty years later, the Games returned to London. Sweden were spectacular, scoring 19 goals in only three games, before reaching the final match, where they defeated Yugoslavia 3-1. In a high-scoring bronze-medal match, Denmark gained revenge for their 1908 final defeat, beating Great Britain, managed by Manchester United legend Matt Busby, 5-3.

Football programmes have always been a particular love of British football fans, and another part of the FIFA archive are match programmes from the two 1948 semi-finals and the final, all held at Wembley Stadium.

The cost was just a shilling, the equivalent of five new pence after decimalisation in the UK in 1971. The programmes were nestling in a nondescript grey box, along with the Olympic poster – an athlete throwing a discus in front of London’s iconic Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – and the official programme from the Opening Ceremony, which cost 2 shillings. What price the 2012 edition?

One of FIFA’s most prized possessions is a collection of 7,000 documents and more than 2,000 photos from Tunisian journalist and African football aficionado Faouzi Mahjoub, donated in 2006.

Another is a shirt from the 1938 FIFA World Cup™-winning Italian football team, but one of the most special is an engraved watch presented to the inaugural 1930 Uruguayan FIFA World Cup team. The watch in FIFA’s possession belonged to legendary striker Pedro Petrone.

Known as “the artillery man”, Petrone was regarded as one of the best Uruguayan footballers of all time. He scored 203 goals in 192 games, 27 international goals in 28 caps, as well as winning the FIFA World Cup once, after two Olympic football gold medals in 1924 and 1928.

At London 2012, FIFA will be quietly collecting more memorabilia, so that future generations of football fans from around the world will be able to view more than 100 years of history under one roof at the FIFA museum.

*To check out the mentioned items, please click through the gallery, which can be found on the right hand side.