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People: Interview: Stefan Jost, director of the new FIFA Museum in Zürich

Published in Sports Management 04 Apr 2016 issue 117
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FIFA Museum managing director Stefan Jost
FIFA Museum managing director Stefan Jost

The CHF30m (US$30.2m, €27.5m, £21.7m) FIFA World Football Museum opened in Zurich, Switzerland, on 28 February – just days after Gianni Infantino was elected new president of the world’s football governing body.

First announced in 2012, the 3,000sq m (32,300sq ft) museum is part of a larger CHF150m (US$151.1m, €137.7m, £108.6m) development which includes luxury apartments, a restaurant, a sports bar, a shop, FIFA office space and a conference centre.

Sports Management spoke with the new museum’s managing director, Stefan Jost, and he says he’s not pulling any punches when it comes to FIFA.

What is the museum’s mission statement?
We want to bring people closer to football through knowledge, understanding and enjoyment. You want to do that through an exciting experience to show how football inspires the world and touches people’s lives. It’s not FIFA who are at the centre of the museum, it’s football.

But will you be covering FIFA and the controversies involved? Is there anything in the museum covering that at the moment?
We are a museum. We have to show all facets, good or bad, of the development of FIFA. With the recent turbulences within FIFA, it’s difficult for us because we don’t have the distance. Because it’s an ongoing case we don’t know everything about the investigations so it would be premature to say something right now and then one or two months down the line say ‘oh well that’s wrong or that’s changed’. It will come and we will definitely be presenting it.

We have an important role to be critical of our own organisation. We’re not the mouthpiece of FIFA. That is not the idea of a museum.

How are you involving and engaging the visitors in the experience?
Interactivity and connectivity are a big part of the experience. We have an area we call memory jar where we invite people to bring us their football experiences which we will then put on show. We want to connect with people and give them a great experience. Not just by hammering down information – that’s not what people want anymore. You have to give them the information and education while entertaining them at the same time.

What kind of exhibitions and displayes are included in the museum?
One of the highlights is the Rainbow. It’s a big exhibition showcasing the 209 national jerseys arranged by colour. It’s got a lot of symbolic value because it’s not ordered by the biggest or most valuable. It’s done by colour with each having its own place, representing the democratic nature of FIFA with each member country holding one vote.

We’re also big fans of The Pinball Machine, where you use an actual football to play a giant game of pinball. If you go to a museum about football you’re going to want to play and touch a ball. This offers that.

There are also other stations where you can be a commentator or referee. Soccer dance – where you mimic how real people celebrate the goals using kinect technology to create a dancing avatar – is also popular.

What will be your relationship with the city of Zurich?
We have a key partnership with the Zurich tourism organisation. For Zurich it’s a unique thing the city has. The museum can be a deciding factor for some tourists deciding where to visit in Europe.

How does this compare to other museums?
We’ve benchmarked, gone around the world, looked at museums. There are elements of it elsewhere, but there’s nothing like this. It’s truly one-of-a-kind.

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