A seemingly endless list of valuable football mementoes gathered over 30 years by resourceful English journalist Harry Langton is now safely in the joint possession of FIFA and, for the first time, proudly going on display.
The FIFA Museum Collection made its debut, appropriately enough, at the Louvre during the World Cup draw. Guests at the draw were enthralled by the mini-exhibition of ceramics, paintings, figurines, antique footballs and boots, and other artifacts - and yet the display only represented about three percent of the total.
The nostalgic power of the display touched not only senior visitors such as the first-ever goalscorer in the World Cup, Lucien Laurent, but also the modern generation typified by US star Alexi Lalas, who enthused: "It's terrific to see so much of the game's history right here under your eyes."
Larger exhibitions are planned for later this year, not only on home ground in Zurich during the Congress in July but also in England during EURO '96 and in the United States during the Olympic Games.
The FIFA offices or the neighbouring Sonnenberg (see report in Magazette) will be permanent home for part of the Collection, but the biggest permanent exhibition is planned for the new Football Museum in Preston, in Lancashire. The Museum is to form part of a smart new stadium being built to replace the historic Deepdale, where the great Tom Finney starred in the 1950s.
"It is especially appropriate that Preston should host the museum," commented FIFA General Secretary Joseph S.Blatter, "because the club was the first-ever champion of the oldest league in the world and so much of the Collection originates from northern England."
But the rest of the world is well represented, too, with objects from all continents. And in Paris, offers came in of personal contributions to add to the Collection.
"There are various football museum collections around the world," admits Clive Toye, President of SPI Management Group which is co-owning and administering the Collection for FIFA, "but people have realised that this is the one that really matters not only because of its size and value but especially because it has FIFA's certificate of authenticity."
The Collection can be made available to associations, clubs or others who wish to stage a temporary exhibition anywhere in the world.