Many a tourist has visited Chania, a popular destination for charter flights to Crete, and not noticed any sign of football. Birthplace of Nana Mouskouri, Chania has long been overshadowed by Heraklion where soccer is concerned, top-flight returnees OFI Crete the first name that springs to most people’s minds when talk turns to watching a game on Greece’s largest island.
Even local club AO Chania lost all its identity after merging with Kissamikos 2017. The rebranded second-tier team now sports the leaping dolphin of Chania’s former rivals from Kissamos.
So, where’s the footie?
The answer lies behind an unassuming façade on downtown Tsouderon, near Chania city market. What appears at first to be yet another souvenir shop is, in fact, the third most reviewed museum in all of Greece on tripadvisor.
It may be way behind the Acropolis in terms of visits, but the Greek National Football Museum welcomes a regular influx of visitors, many of them foreign, the kind of foreigners you often see at random football grounds in European holiday destinations.
Once they enter, they are not only greeted by some 1,800 exhibits but the infectious enthusiasm of museum founder/collator Nikos Flekkas. ‘It all started over a decade ago when I received a Greek shirt so I started collecting them,’ says Nikos. ‘A few players sent us their tops and we also bought some from other collectors.’
Crammed into a relatively small space are now more than 1,000 Greek jerseys and 300 foreign ones, many of them shirt swaps. English visitors can not only admire the one that David Beckham wore when he launched that free-kick in the last minute of stoppage time in 2001 – they can also try it on.
For Nikos, pride of place goes to Euro 2004, and the complete collection of shirts of Greece’s winning team, plus the signed match ball from the final. The game also features on a video loop of tournament finals playing in the background.
With more revenue from ever more visitors happy to part with €10 for a thoroughly diverting half-hour, and more items coming in, Nikos now has a different kind of problem on his hands. ‘Unfortunately the two rooms here aren’t big enough any more. We’re going to have to expand.’
Greek National Football Museum. Tsouderon 40, Chania. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9am-3pm. Admission €10.