Brazil's national passion finally gets a shrine
By Todd Benson
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - In Brazil, soccer is considered an art form. So it is only fitting that the sport Brazilians call "the beautiful game" gets its own museum.
This is the land that produced football greats such as Garrincha, Zico, Romario, Ronaldo, Kaka, and the most famous of all, Pele. It is the only country to have qualified for every World Cup, and the only one to win it five times.
But until now, Brazil has never had a truly national museum honoring the sport that has become synonymous with Brazilian culture. That changed last month when the Museu do Futebol, or Football Museum, opened at Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo.
Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted in Portuguese, Spanish and English by a life-size image of Pele, who is so revered in Brazil that he is known simply as "O Rei," or "The King."
"The Louvre has the Mona Lisa. We have our own piece of art -- Pele," said Hugo Sukman of the Roberto Marinho Foundation, which helped fund the construction of the museum.
In many ways, the museum is a shrine to Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
One of its most impressive displays is a temporary exhibit with 140 items from Pele's personal collection, including the wooden shoeshine box he used as a boy to earn spare change and the ball from his 1,000th goal in 1969.
The museum traces football's transformation from an elite sport to the passion of the masses in this vast, multiracial country of 190 million people. From the jungles of the Amazon to the slums of cities like Rio de Janeiro and Recife, soccer is a constant that unites Brazilians from all walks of life. Continued...