Welcome to Open Court, the newsletter and platform space where we explore the things we need to talk about in sports and life. I'm Joanne C. Gerstner, a sports writer, author, decent tennis player, NCAA tournament bracket busted, and lover of dark Swiss chocolate. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
When I was a kid, one of the best parts about school were the field trips. The zoo. A place that had a museum with American history items (Kennedy’s convertible from the assassination anyone?) A smoke-stained newsroom with real ink-stained journalists. A baseball game with rowdy members of the safety patrol.
Getting out of the classroom and seeing the world, which seemed so big back then, was a joy. That was also probably a clear foreshadowing that I could not be a desk-bound adult, needing to see stuff as a sports journalist. Office life is not for me. I gotta move.
Which brings me to a lovely field trip I recently made, thanks to a crazy good airfare. The time away was a work-and-family spring break thing, which clearly needed a little field trip to the FIFA Museum - aka the straight up mafia who run the World Cup.
(Whoops. Did I just say the quiet part out loud? Sorry, FIFA. Not sorry.)
The FIFA Museum is in…Zurich, Switzerland. I was in the city, and it felt sports writer necessary to peep this museum.
As the kids say, I did it, so you don’t have to.
So to start, I thought the Museum would be big, bold and in your face about the grandness of FIFA. Tear-inducing recountings of (ahem, men’s) World Cups past. Perhaps a small corner for a cursory mention of women playing soccer. I had a grand palace in mind, shock and awe, and a hella gift shop to rip the Swiss Francs out of your wallet. Sepp Blatter bobbleheads for all.
This is what the bro, my actual brother Paul, and I peeped: a sleek, newish office building in the heart of Zurich. All steel, windows and gray/black tones. A small sign on the second floor facing the street, saying “FIFA Museum”. Only clue that FIFA was there. Thank you Google maps for being more detailed. Our next clue was a patch of some artificial turf as the walkway leading to the one door to enter. Hmm.
And then. The museum’s first floor was like a half-floor display of world jerseys with country crests (cool), and a tiny timeline of FIFA history.
The timeline was odd and small, and had out of focus or badly-cropped photos for the winning teams. More time seemed to be spent on detailing rules changes over the years than the actual games.
You then walk down a set of stairs, with overhead sounds of people playing soccer, to the basement. Like half the basement of this office tower is the Museum. The main wall to the right is history of FIFA by the decades, with some jerseys and souvenirs under glass from the winners and their top players. You already guessed this is all men’s history. Periodt.
However, the world, non-soccer history choices were often, well, curious. Like the 1990s were defined by…President Clinton’s scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Oh FIFA. That is the most important thing to you?
The women get a half wall on the left side, with the same treatment - minus the odd moments of history. Apparently FIFA knew who Megan Rapinoe was this time. (YAY! Good for them, sip that tea Alex Morgan.) Replicas of the men’s and women’s World Cup trophies were under glass.
I did not know the winning countries have their names engraved on the underside of the gleaming trophy. (Always and forever shoutout to the Stanley Cup. Put the damned names on the Cup. Misspellings and all!)
There were some cute interactive, green screen type of activities, where you could get your photo in a famous soccer stadium. I did the 1999 Rose Bowl women’s final, a call back to when I was actually there for that amazing game. You could also replay famous moments in World Cup history, or try to mimic a goal dance. I tried the Brazilian Zombie, and failed utterly. But the attempt was brave. There is a little movie theater showing moments from (men’s) World Cups, a few seats from famous World Cup stadia, some assorted trophies from futsal and U-20s, two Olympic soccer medals…and that’s it.
You go up to the second floor and there are some interactive things, like a video game room and some nooks with videos. But really, it just was like huh. The end, 35 minutes later. We could have done a little more time, but really not. We saw it all.
WHAT? That’s it?
Surely the gift shop, the place where museums make the money, would redeem FIFA.
There were four racks of FIFA T-shirts and sweatshirts, some coffee mugs, keychains and posters. A small rack of soccer related books. A shelf of kids stuff. A small corner of jerseys.
And. That. Was. It. FIFA made the small try by making the exit to the joint run through the gift shop, but for the love of Walt Disney World, stock some real merch! Can you imagine all the opportunities lost? It’s not like FIFA leaves money on the table. They’ve been straight up eating billions for years. But maybe my $17.95 coffee mug from the 1978 Argentina-hosted and won World Cup is the best they can do.
We cruised down the stairs, ended up back where we started, at the first floor, and left. Like I said, the research has been done for you, and now presented. I wasn’t expecting a Smithsonian-level dive into soccer - which would have been AWESOME - but this was a pretty weak-sauce try with a few videos to jazz it up.
Anyways. Field trips are always cool. Paul and I had a good laugh, walked away with a poster and a coffee mug, and moved on.
See you Friday.
Open Court publishes on Tuesdays and Fridays, bringing you the stuff we need to talk about with author and sports journalist Joanne C. Gerstner.
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