Cape Town – As Middle East country Qatar braces itself to stage the planet's biggest sporting event, scores of football fans from around the world daily pass through the doors of a building, aptly named Legends, to savour the World Cup's ultimate moments of celebration over the decades.
Legends is a seven-story building in the heart of Madrid. Through its displays which number well over 4 000 historic objects, it portrays the history of football across many global events such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, European Championship, Copa America, UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Intercontinental Cup, Club World Cup, UEFA Europa League, women's football, plus major legends and national leagues, such as LaLiga, among others.
However, the FIFA World Cup displays occupy the pride of place in the building and it is not unusual for fans to say they enjoyed goosebump moments while taking in the historic feats of superstars such as Pelé, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Rossi, Di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo, among others.
Legends, the world's most famous football museum is the brainchild of the Argentinian-born Marcelo Ordás. He is the guide for fans when they tour the building, and he dreams of the day when Madrid will officially be declared 'the football capital of the world'.
“We had to choose the best place in the world to showcase the wonderful history of world football," said Ordás.
"Madrid in its own right is the 'Football Capital of the World' and it deserves to showcase, protect and spread this legacy to visitors from all over the world.
"Football provides the greatest sense of belonging and the most passionate expression mankind has ever created.
"Legends is here, with this unprecedented project, to consolidate Madrid's position as the world capital of the most beautiful sport of all for every football aficionado, and to give every visitor the most passionate and moving football experience possible.”
Through his talks, Ordás keeps the romance of the World Cup alive, and he has many tales to tell since his position as president of Legends has given him a free pass to the game's greatest events over the past two decades. He has also enjoyed interaction with many of the game's biggest characters.
A few days ago, I was in a group of football journalists from around the world who were visiting Legends. We were privileged to hear first-hand some of Ordás' extraordinary World Cup tales.
He shared a story about a 2010 World Cup referee Hector Baldassi of Argentina who donated a jersey to the museum. It was a Spanish national team jersey and it belonged to Xavi Hernandez, one of the best midfielders of his generation and blessed with stunning ball control.
Xavi wore the jersey in a 2010 World Cup last-16 round clash against the Iberian Peninsula neighbours Portugal at the Cape Town Stadium. It was one of seven matches played at the venue during the South Africa-hosted 2010 World Cup.
Xavi was one of the stars for Spain who ran out slender 1-0 winners after David Villa scored the deciding goal late in the second half. Xavi supplied the scoring pass to Villa.
After the match, Xavi was named the 'Budweiser Man of the Match' after he spearheaded the team's advance to the quarter-finals.
At the time referee Baldassi handed over the jersey to Ordás he said there was a story behind him acquiring the jersey, but he would leave it to Xavi to make the revelation.
Ordás said that during the match Xavi had great play at a time when Baldassi was close. A moment later, Xavi heard a voice saying: "You son of a bitch, that was a great pass".
The compliment took Xavi by surprise, and he turned to look over his shoulder and realised the remark was from the referee.
After Villa had given Spain the lead, the Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal started applying severe pressure in the closing stages of the match. Xavi became increasingly anxious and hoped that Portugal, coached by former Bafana Bafana mentor Carlos Queiroz, would run out of time.
Towards the end of the match, the injury time display board showed two minutes of added time will be played. As the stadium clock showed the two minutes were about to end, Xavi started yelling "blow the whistle" in the direction of the referee.
His shouting didn't attract the attention of the referee but as the two minutes elapsed, the referee finally responded, and while on the run, he asked Xavi: "Will you give me your jersey if I blow 'time' now?" Without wasting another moment, Xavi shot back: "Yes, I will."
And Baldassi instantly ended the match, and a few hours later Xavi parted with the prized possession.