It’s all about the World Cup at this time of the year as the eyes of the world shift to Brazil in celebration of the beautiful game. With matches across 12 cities in the South American country, there is enough live football to satiate even the most demanding of fans.
For the history buff or the tourist in Sao Paulo wondering why hosting the World Cup is such a big deal for Brazil, look no further than the Museu do Futebol, located at the entrance of the Pacaembu Stadium. The passion on the streets and in the stadiums is better understood after a visit to the museum which is a travel destination in its own right.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 9pm with an entrance fee of six Brazilian Reals. It is free on Thursdays though. Daily attendance is about 1,200 but this has doubled to about 2,500 due tourists in town for the World Cup.
The atmosphere on getting to the museum is party-like, especially during the World Cup. It is not out of place seeing a samba band performing outside; men drumming, ladies dancing.
The collection of posters that decorate the entrance hall to the museum are an excellent introduction to the trip into the football past of the five-time world champions.
Like a visitor to Sao Paulo is bound to find out, Portuguese is the language of choice. However, many of the employees at the museum speak English and quickly offer assistance, including how to navigate your way either thorugh a map or an online app on your phone.
There is a temporary exhibition on the ground floor which is open only for the duration of the World Cup. The escalators however open up the world of the museum proper itself. The walkway is sometimes brightly-lit or pitch-dark depending on if you are viewing pictures or videos.
The museum shows the history of football, Brazilian football legends has old movie clips and radio transmissions from famous football games, interviews with football personalities in Brazil and an entire room dedicated to Brazil’s football ‘king’ Pele.
At the museum the emphasis is very much on technology and interactivity as a means of telling the history of Brazilian soccer and society.
Sometimes, the roar of the crowd from the speakers is deafening, with footages as far back as the last World Cup finals held in Brazil in 1950. Some of these exhibits really come alive.
There is a particular screening room where visitors can see the final moments of the 1950 World Cup final when Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 in the final minutes of the second half. The silence at Maracana stadium after Uruguay scored is better experienced. The mood suddenly turns solemn and in that moment it is obvious how important winning the World Cup is to Brazilians.
Among many of the interactive features at the museum is the chance to ‘play’ Brazilian superstar Neymar in a game where the Brazilian striker passes the ball to the visitor, who then has to kick the ball back.
There is a section of the museum devoted to photos from times gone by and you could spend a great deal of time there contemplating the amazing collection of snapshots from the first decades of football history. There are also exhibits showing the evolution of footballs and soccer boots.
OF course, the museum wouldn’t be complete if there was no shop to buy memorabilia and souvenirs. Everything from jerseys of the various participating teams to a replica of the world cup (in gold are available for sale.
There is a restaurant too with indoor and outdoor sections where both Brazilian and international dishes can be found. World Cup matches can be viewed here and as night falls there is music which helps in making a visit to the music a well-rounded experience for the visitor.