New exhibition examines the design behind “the Beautiful Game.”

Any year within which a FIFA World Cup will be held, there is always an escalating and palpable level of excitement as the crowning event of the “world’s most beautiful game” draws ever closer. And this year, for the first time in 36 years, that excitement has come to Canada as the men’s national soccer team qualified for the World Cup after thoroughly trouncing Jamaica on March 27 in a match held at Toronto’s BMO Field.

A great moment for Canadian soccer, and there is more to come in Qatar later this year. Until then, a vast array of events and celebrations will be occurring to tap into fan excitement. One example opened today in London, U.K., as the Design Museum debuted an exhibition titled Football: Designing the Beautiful Game. On display until August 29 is an array of over 500 objects and ephemera that showcase the ways in which design has shaped the world’s most popular sport.

Installation view featuring Peter Carney’s banner. (photo: Felix Speller)

Always through the lens of design, the exhibition explores elements of the game such as sporting performance, kit development, the graphic design of team badges, posters and programmes memorabilia. Of course, what will certainly be a crowd-favourite is the section on football equipment, which houses objects such as the two footballs used in the inaugural 1930 World Cup final and match-worn gear by legendary players such as Pelé, Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, George Best and Diego Maradona.

George Best’s worn boots. (Photo: Felix Speller)

A key component of the game also explored is stadiums, which have detailed design requirements that consider sound, sightlines, and movement to maximise the fan experience. Blueprints and models from some of the world’s most complex stadiums are featured, including landmark venues such as Wembley, Stamford Bridge and San Siro, alongside future-facing projects from leading industry figures like Herzog & de Meuron, Populous and Zaha Hadid Architects. But historically significant failures of stadium design are also examined, such as the Hillsborough Disaster.

Forest Green Rovers Stadium (2016)
Render by MIR, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid

“Football is a hugely significant industry across the world and it employs a vast network of highly specialized professionals, with designers and architects playing an important role in shaping the development of the sport for over 150 years,” says curator Eleanor Watson.

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