Approximately 35 miles from the footballing metropolises of Liverpool and Manchester, lies Deepdale Stadium. It is the oldest continuously used football stadium in the world. It hosted its first football match on 5 October 1878 and for the past 130 years has been home to Preston North End. As well as housing the local football club, it is also the place where England's National Football Museum is based - and the FIFA Collection.

So, if you thought that the matchballs from the 1930 FIFA World Cup™ would be in Uruguay or Argentina, you'd be wrong. If you suspected that Bobby Moore's shirt that he swapped with Pele at the end of the Brazil-England match at Mexico 1970 would be in Brazil, guess again. And if you surmised that the shirt from the world's first international would be kept under lock and key in a vault, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that all three are on display to the public.

Every year, well over 100,000 people pass through the doors of the Museum, like George McPherson, a retired teacher from Edinburgh. "This place is absolutely fantastic," he said. "It's a football fan's dream. I've just spent four hours in there and the time has flown. I'll be encouraging all of my family and friends to make the trip down to Scotland too."

The museum also has the seal of approval from Sir Bobby Charlton. "I can't think of a better museum anywhere in the world," he said. Following a recent visit, Sir Alex Ferguson stated: "Each time I visit the Museum I am so impressed by the great job it does in bringing the rich history of football to life." Even FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who visited the museum in the year 2004, is a fan: " "

The National Football Museum merits my admiration as a footballer
and as the President of FIFA - it is a superb realisation, a real

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter lauds the National Football Museum in Preston during his visit in 2004.

The Home of FIFA's history
The FIFA President can be particularly proud that the Museum houses the FIFA Collection. Quite simply, it is the finest single collection of football memorabilia in the world. It includes a huge variety of historic items such as paintings, prints and woodcuts. It also includes football equipment including balls, boots and other items of memorabilia, including toys and games.

There is also a special link to the FIFA World Cup with historic items relating to each and every one of the 18 tournaments to date. Photographs, medals and programmes are all on display, as well as the replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy, which was secretly produced after the original was stolen.

"It's marvellous for us to have the FIFA Collection here," said Philippa Duxbury, the museum's Marketing and Communications Officer. "Every football fan knows the name of FIFA, and loves the World Cup, so for us to hold this collection is a huge honour. We welcome visitors from all over the world and, as well as their love of football, their interest in the World Cup unite them all.

"Perhaps one of the exhibits that people flock to the most is Diego Maradona's shirt from the game in the 1986 World Cup against England. It brings back so many memories for people - the 'Hand of God' goal, as well as the great goal he scored. It's not just a shirt in a glass case, it's an iconic image - it's living history."

A museum of two halves
Appropriately the museum is divided into two halves. On the ground floor, the 'first half' deals with the history of the game, while the second is more futuristic: with plenty of interactive displays and a viewing gallery which looks on to the pitch at Deepdale. Underlining the fact that football is for all, entrance is completely free.

The museum also does not keep everything to itself. Many exhibits are loaned elsewhere in the UK and exhibitions around the world. It has also worked in partnership with UEFA to create the world's first exhibition dedicated to women's football to coincide with the UEFA EURO 2005 Women's Championship.

Memorabilia from the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991 is on display, alongside a proclamation from the FA from 1921 which states: "The game of football is unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged!"

But perhaps the most striking and poignant piece on display is a shirt worn in the first international match between England and Scotland which took place on 30 November 1872 in Glasgow and ended goalless. The shirt was worn by England's Arnold Kirke-Smith, a member of Oxford University and is distinctive, not only for its colour, but also the presence of the Three Lions emblem, which remains to this day.

On that day over 136 years ago, that shirt was seen by 4,000 people, but now it is on display for all to see. Britain, the birthplace of the modern game, is giving the history of the game back to the people.