NOW don’t get me wrong, I like kids as much as the next guy - in the ‘oh isn’t that nice’ or ‘haven’t you done well’ kind of way. I appreciate their enthusiasm, applaud their eagerness and admire their energy.
Soaking up the atmosphere and pressure of the crowd, a gargantuan nine people, five of them children, I slotted home my first two pens with 54mph and 57mph rockets
But now and then these little scamps need to be put in their place.
They need to learn to lose, to flounder, to realise that the big-wide-world will inevitably, one-day, hand them defeat. ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali once said ‘We all have to take defeats in life’, it just so happens that on this very day, I was going to be the man to hand it to them.
The vehicle for my glory was NFM’s Football Plus+ experience, a permanent fixture at the museum alongside ‘the World’s greatest football collection’, standing at a mere 140,000 items.
These include such rare treasures as Gazza’s head from satirical puppet-show, Spitting Image, a Renaissance-inspired portrait of King Eric and everyone’s favourite, Beardy Man doing a headstand.
There are in fact enough items within the collection to place one on every seat of Wembley stadium and still have 50,000 leftover items: The most pointless fact you will read today
NFM’s Football Plus+ interactive challenges offer patrons a hearty dollop of good ole’ family fun and a welcome distraction from roaming the exhibits and scaling the museum’s seemingly disproportionate number of stairs (so much for Urbis’ funicular lift).
Accessible to adults and children alike, FP+ offers the chance to take on seven mostly enjoyable activities in exchange for credits. One credit will set you back £2.50, 4 for £9, 8 for £15 and 16 for £25. A tad pricey, but on the other hand I scoffed a surprisingly agreeable pie and mash in the café for only £3.75. So you know… every cloud.
The Penalty Shootout (2 credits, all other challenges 1 credit) was clearly the fan favourite with around a ten minute waiting time (although this was midday during school holidays).
Soaking up the atmosphere and pressure of the crowd, a gargantuan nine people, five of them children, I slotted home my first two pens with 54mph and 57mph rockets (around the same speed as a Western Mastiff Bat in full flight).
For my third attempt I played up to the crowd and went for a spot of show-boating, calmly chipping the ball down the middle while the virtual keeper flapped to his right… Easy. 2875 points and the crowd went berserk, awarding me a light and polite patter of applause. The young pretender (no older than nine) preceding me had scored a measly 1625 points. He gawped in wonder at my splendour.
The Pass Master and Shot Stopper challenges were similarly entertaining. The former allowing the participant to smash the ball against scored targets differentiating in size, whilst the latter allows you to slap a wall silly as highlighted footballs splash around the goalmouth. Opting for the hard level (naturally), my 6’1” height and gangly constitution dealt a devastating blow to the competition, all averaging between four to five feet.
The tricks and skills challenge On the Ball, however, was fairly underwhelming. Watching a professional trickster perform a slick move on-screen, you then pay 10p a second to try (and invariably fail) to replicate that trick… Thanks but next time I’ll do it in the garden for free.
Upon purchase of credits you are handed a FP+ ticket which allows you to log-on to the NFM website at home and redeem scores and certificates, which you can then post and share online.
I was considering sharing my scores online but then realised that nobody would be remotely arsed about how I’d crushed a host of minors.
So instead, I opted for a photo of me lifting a digital Premiership trophy.
Whilst visiting the NFM you should head to the immersive cinema room to take in Richard Oliver’s short film Our Beautiful Game. A tale of one month in the life of English football, the film flicks from the windblown industrial estates and ramshackle backstreets of England through to the perfectly groomed and hallowed turf of Wembley. All ages, colours, sizes and abilities unite within the film for a fascinating look at our beloved national game.
I eventually strode out of the museum an undisputed and undefeated champion. The recipient of three Football Plus+ awards and current record holder for the Shot Stopper challenge, with 26 points (record unconfirmed).
If nothing else, the NFM’s Football Plus+ experiences have taught me that there is an unreasonable amount of pleasure to be gained from trouncing children. Next up, the rope-climb at the Cathedral’s new playground.
The National Football Museum is at Urbis, Cathedral Gardens, City, M4 3BG. 0161 605 8200. Open: Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm.
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