Above: The Museo de Fotebol covers each year of World Cup history.
We citizens of the United States tend not to treasure what we call soccer, which the rest of the world knows as football (or futebol in Poruguese). Yeah, we let our kids play it, and we celebrate when our women win world championships or Olympic gold.
But, really, the rest of the time most of us just complain about it. Not enough scoring, we say. Just a bunch of guys kicking a ball around for no apparent reason, we add.
OK, I don’t agree. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent some time in Italy, where calcio (pronounced “cal-cho”) as they call it is more important than tales of Silvio Berlusconi’s love life. Or, clearly, anything remotely resembling an Italian national budget.
I once sat with my wife Mary Pat in Florence’s stadium and watched the local team come back from a 0-1 deficit to score the go-ahead goal in the final minutes, winning 2-1 over the team from Napoli. And I screamed every bit as loudly as the Florentine fans sitting around us.
So a couple of days ago I walked from our hotel to the Pacaembu Museo do Futebol, the museum that is attached to the $15 million Estadio Pacaembu, Sao Paulo’s municipal football stadium.
General admissions is 6 reales, equivalent to about $3 (though I got half-price senior admission). And I would have paid five times that much. From the moment you are greeted by a bigger-than-life-size video of Pele welcoming you, to the moment you step past the area where children are practicing their goal-kicking skills against a life-size digital goalie, the Museo do Futebol is an engaging experience.
I can’t decide which was my favorite part: the room that celebrated every World Cup match by pairing the game with the world events of the time, the room where a number of football experts describe their favorite goals (with subtitles in most major languages) or the giant room that with 20 or more huge video screens and a sound system U2 would admire gives you the virtual feel of an actual championship game.
My legs are still aching from the several-kilometer trek, up and down the steep Sao Paulo hills. But that was just another benefit that the museum provided.
I imagine Pele’s legs ached even worse after any one of his games.