"A person's understanding of Brazil comes through football."

Those were the words of the esteemed writer Jose Lins do Rego, and it cannot be denied that since the sport first reached Brazilian shores, it has never been the same again. An elitist pastime in its early years, futebol was soon adopted by the masses and played on the streets of every city across the vast South American country.

Yesterday, as a form of public recognition of the sport that brings so much joy to Brazilians, the municipal and state governments of the city of Sao Paulo, in association with private industry and a cultural foundation, unveiled the Museum of Football. Located within the offices of the Estadio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho, better known as the Pacaembu and one of the city's most popular postcard images, the museum has 17 rooms of exhibits, spread across three floors and covering an area close to 7,000 m².

To visit the Museum of Football is to take a trip through the history of Brazil in the 20th century, and learn how football has shaped the nation's culture, via a modern design and a host of multimedia resources. Upon entry, visitors are drawn to the Penalty Area, a room housing a photographic exhibition documenting a variety of Brazilian clubs' paraphernalia, collected by fans over the decades. Items on display vary from tankards to old magazines, and also include pendants, ashtrays and dolls.

Next up is the Foot on the Ball corridor, which shows video clips of youngsters kicking a ball around on dirt tracks, backyards and any number of improvised playing surfaces. Moving on comes the Baroque Angels chamber, where images of 25 Brazilian football legends are projected in life-size proportions on to transparent screens suspended in the air. As a result, the likes of Nilton Santos, Didi, Garrincha, Pele, Rivelino, Socrates, Romario and Ronaldo all appear to be floating around the room.

In the Goals Room, well-known personalities recount the strikes that left a mark on their lives, on the country's history and on the game of football itself. The role of the supporter is not overlooked, either, with visitors to the darkened Exaltation Room suddenly surrounded by the vibrancy, colour and creativity of fans; their anthems, chants and songs.

History and fun
The Origins Room uses 431 rare photos and never-before-seen video footage to give an insight into football's early years in Brazil; from its introduction by Charles Miller at the end of the 19th Century through to the start of the professional era. In the World Cups room, one can watch videos about how football progressed alongside the constantly evolving culture and customs of Brazilian society, outlining the fashions, music, politics and social transformations of each era.

The Rite of Passage corridor, which is fittingly darkened, focuses on the Seleção's devastating loss to Uruguay in the 1950 FIFA World Cup™ Final. The Pele and Garrincha Experience provides greater memories for the Brazilian fan, however, with films of up to five minutes about the two legends.

Jokes and banter between fans is the order of the day in the Fun sector. In this wing of the museum, visitors can find the Stats and Trivia and Dance of Football rooms, and join in more activities in the Body Game room. Here you can test your shooting power, simulate taking a penalty and get information on the 128 teams to have participated in the Brazilian Championship. Also showing in this room is a 3D film that demonstrates how the body reacts during a game.

The last stop is the Pacaembu Room, an area devoted to telling the story of one of the country's oldest stadiums.

Exacting project
The Museum of Football project cost around £9.4m. The building work, which took 13 months to complete and involved 680 workers, was carried out in such a way as to ensure the original structure of the stadium, which dates back to the 1930s, stayed intact.

The whole exhibition includes 1,442 photos and six hours of video. The museum was designed to be totally accessible to those with special needs, including the use of audio-gates, touch-sensitive signs, sound sensors, maps, colour codes and plaques - everything required to ensure visitors can interact fully with their surroundings.