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On July 6th, in the Urbis building in Manchester city centre, the gleaming new National Football Museum (NFM) will open its doors to the public for the first time. In moving forty miles from its original home at Deepdale in Preston (where it criminally only opened in 2001), the museum has swelled significantly in size, and is aiming to be a noteworthy mark on the footballing landscape.
Whilst in some ways it is a shame that its home is no longer Deepdale, chosen for its historical importance as one of the roots of establishment of the Football League (and home to its first winners), there are reasons for the relocation. Physically Urbis is a larger platform for display, and whilst Preston isn't exactly a geographical backwater, 2005 figures of 107,000 visitors to the museum are expected to be at least trebled during the first year in Manchester. Given the success of its clubs, the city is arguably the new capital of English football, and an assured continuation to operate outside of London should be heartily applauded.
Furthermore, when you actually examine the potential impacts of the rebrand, relaunch and relocation, the National Football Museum has the opportunity to profoundly and positively affect all spheres of football fandom.
Football's combination of loyalty and passion breeds addiction, and the obsessive fan will certainly be catered for. In fact, with approximately 140,000 different items on show (a mind-blowing figure when deliberated), the museum will be the largest collection of football memorabilia worldwide. Items such as the oldest women's football kit and the England captain's jersey and cap from the first ever official international may not set pulses racing amongst casual observers, but exhibits such as the ball from the 1966 World Cup final are pieces that invite the noses of the supporting masses to be pressed against glass.
In addition to this, children have also been gloriously considered. We are in grave danger of producing a generation of football fan that assumes English football started in 1992, that we have always has all-seater stadiums, and that Manchester United are the beginning, middle and end of domestic success.
They have no concept of the horrors of Hillsborough or magnificent Maracana, no knowledge of Matthews, Finney or Lofthouse. But this is also a generation with a different attitude, an alternative appetite for knowledge, and our children are impervious to exhibits contained in glass cabinets in stuffy dimly-lit rooms.
The clichéd expression is 'touch, feel and learn', and the museum has focused its efforts on ensuring maximum interactivity. There is a specific discovery zone for the under 5's and FootballPlus+ simulations allow children to test their reactions and abilities against their heroes in a variety of skill sets. The ambition is to genuinely create an event that the whole family will enjoy, and it is difficult to envisage this not being achieved.
A large part of this familial atmosphere is likewise created by the lack of entrance fee to the museum. This is an initiative taken from the largest (and most successful) museums in London, but cannot be underestimated in footballing terms.
At a time when the cheapest price for two adults and two children to sit in the upper family enclosure at the Emirates Stadium is £182 for a Category A game, football is in serious danger of losing its contact with family life, if not its appeal. Whilst a day out at a museum will not generate the excited fervour of a match day, the availability of free enjoyment for families is priceless, if you excuse the pun. Less than three miles away, a tour of Old Trafford costs £15 per adult (although family discounts are available), and this rises to £110 to include lunch with an ex-player. Compiling, transporting and displaying 140,000 museum pieces is an expensive task, and the NFM's commitment to free entry is commendable.
Most importantly, however, the game itself has been cherished. In the bustle of the Premier, Football and Champions League we often tend to live for the moment, worrying about the next signing, season, home game or club owner. We forget a time when players could only play for the love of the game and chairmen ran the club as the father figure of the town. Sometimes it is nice to look to the past, not through rose-tinted spectacles or a curmudgeonly view of the 'good old days', but a fond appreciation for times different.
If the museum is to be successful every piece should tell a story - share a piece of the game's legacy. Looking at Maradona's shirt from the 1986 quarter final or the replica of the stolen Jules Rimet trophy should invoke misty eyes and raised hairs on the back on the back of the net, because that's the power of the game; that is what football can do.
On its official website, the NFM states that it "exists to explain how and why football has become the people's game... regardless of age, gender, disability, sexuality or religion", an evident but crucial goal. Alongside its permanent fixtures, the museum will have exhibitions intended to showcase alternative footballing cultures, and break down barriers to the enjoyment of playing and watching the beautiful game, and initial displays include a showcase of football in West Africa.
Finally, the NFM has made a commitment to achieve an aim that the success of the project will lead to further development outside of Manchester and the UK. On such future aims, judgement will clearly be reserved, but the ideal that the museum should be an education on how to shape the future of our game as well as looking to the past has hopefully been achieved.
Football is the most universal entity in the world, delving into further parts of the globe than Christianity, McDonalds and Google. Whilst alternate forms were played in the Middle East, South America and China, we invented the most inclusive pastime we have ever known. We created the first team, the first official league and the oldest derby. Why on earth wouldn't we be proud to show that off? And why would we not want future generations of football fans to cherish that?
As the website blurb announces, "the National Football Museum in Manchester can become the hub of a global museum of the global game". If it can achieve that aim, I think it is a sentiment we would all share.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter.