The FIFA World Football Museum has announced a new virtual interactive multimedia experience that it says will make it more accessible to people around the globe. Since visitors to the museum would have to travel a long way to visit it from outside Europe and the pandemic has caused problems with travel in and out of Switzerland for many tourists, FIFA decided it would ‘open a new chapter’ of its story with it first digital exhibition. The virtual show is called ‘Origins: Pre-Histories of Football’ and it is available for any football fans to view at the museum’s official website.
According to the sport’s global governing body, the exhibition will highlight the impact of four different ball games from the days before association football became the norm. A Mesoamerican ball game that has certain similarities to football as well as a game known as Kemari in Japan feature. In addition, the game of Cuju, which originated in China, also takes centre stage. There are also exhibits and stories that feature from Europe, in particular the ancient ball games of Greece and Rome. In a press statement, the FIFA Museum said that it would reveal each of these games to its digital audience in four distinct chapters over the course of several weeks. From the outset, virtual visitors were able to learn about the Japanese game of Kemari by virtually attending the museum.
As many soccer fans will know, association football was something that was first formalised in the UK. The first governing body and set of rules that all games had to adhere to in the country came into existence in London in 1863. The Football Association, from where association football gets its name, is still the game’s governing body in England and Wales but FIFA now runs the sport globally. Origins: Pre-Histories of Football does not go into many details about the development of the modern game at this time, however. Instead, the digital exhibition goes back further and asks the question of what might have influenced football’s popularity globally from cultures that already had similar games that were enjoyed by their populations.
According to the FIFA Museum, something that interests both historians and football fans is how the codification of the world’s biggest team sport led to so much take-up in places outside of its birthplace. The virtual show poses questions like what sort of cultural traditions led some people around the planet to play different ball games and then adapt their local traditions to association football. The exhibition will also probe into why some people play soccer while others prefer to spectate.
FIFA admits that there has been no formal link made among scholars that explain the four different game-playing traditions as being forerunners of the modern game. However, these early examples of sports and social games demonstrate people’s apparently innate desire to play with a ball. In some cases, this has been for nothing more than fun but some cultures have used ball games for social cohesion and even military training. The digital exhibition even claims that the ritualised and ceremonial parts of some games also lent certain societies that played them to adopt football more readily than others.
Marco Fazzone, the Director of the FIFA Museum, said that the exhibition had been put together based on sound scientific research. “We relied upon the expertise of an international team of scholars,” he said. According to Fazzone, the scholarly committee investigated numerous ball sports from history to come up with something all football fans will relate to. “The intention [of the exhibition]…,” he said, “is not to ascribe a particular value or significance to a specific game.” Instead, Fazzone claimed that the idea was to show how ball games have always been interwoven with the fabric of daily life in every society.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.