World Cup fans flock to Samara's hidden treasure trove

Omnisport paid a visit to Samara's football museum, co-founded by two avid fans desperate to share their love of the game.

Samara Football Museum   -  Omnisport

Tucked away on a quiet street in Samara city centre, a quaint and quirky football museum pays homage to the beautiful game while riding the wave of World Cup fever.

Co-founded and run by friends Sergei Leybgrad and Aleksander Chernishev 11 years ago, the building is situated on Molodogvardeyskaya St, a residential area just one block from Kuybyshev Square - or, as it's been renamed for the duration of Russia 2018 - the FIFA Fan Fest.

If it weren't for the goalposts that frame its entrance, one could easily miss it. And yet, in the build-up to the finals, the site has become an increasingly popular attraction for supporters from far-flung corners of the globe.

FULL COVERAGE: FIFA WORLD CUP

Stretching across just five small rooms in an underground basement, the museum is jam-packed with memorabilia ranging from shirts, scarves and pennants to trophies, flags and even a pair of boots worn by former Krylya Sovetov and Czech Republic colossus Jan Koller. Size 55, or 19.5 in the UK, in case you were wondering.

And co-director Chernishev says the World Cup coming to town has only increased the museum's profile. "The museum became known all over the world, that's our biggest change," he told Omnisport.

"For two years before the World Cup, international journalists have been coming here and have been introducing this museum to fans, and also explaining the history of football in this city and how Samara is involved in the football world."

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"With the beginning of the World Cup came a huge amount of football lovers and even professionals that were very surprised to find out that football has been living here for more than 100 years and that Samara is hosting this event for a reason."

"It would be easier to say which countries haven't showed up here, since we've had those who are playing here: Costa Rica, Denmark, Uruguay and more Russian fans as well."

"Brazilian, German fans and many American visitors who were very interested in the history of football also came and even Chinese fans, it's impossible to name them all, there were just too many."

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Alongside the ample exhibits dedicated to local side Krylya, who won promotion back to the Russian Premier League in 2017-18, there are shirts from far and wide, including a Lionel Messi Barcelona jersey and a Russia kit signed by veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich, who at the age of 38 came out of retirement to represent his nation at this year's finals.

And, Chernishev hopes the museum's collection will develop further as World Cup fans continue to seek out this hidden gem.

"It is growing every day. You've already seen the Uruguay flag that two fans brought here right before their match with Russia," he said.

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"Fans are always bringing something here, because it's a public museum and our collection has been made by all the items that have something to do with football or are somehow connected to it."

"But, the World Cup has been an obvious booster for the stream of new items and the football culmination for the entire world. I think our citizens haven't realised the significance of this museum yet."

"Our museum turns 11 this year, and I think that this new chapter would be just as important as the history that we have in here."

And with that, Omnisport is ushered out the door so that Sergei and Aleksander can close up and head off to watch the football. After all, they're fans just like the rest of us.

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