FIFA Museum to Honor Legendary Israeli Referee Abraham Klein

A collection Klein accumulated over 50 years as a referee is to be housed in the FIFA World Football Museum in Switzerland. The collection was due to be auctioned but a Haaretz article caught the museum's eye

Israeli referee Abraham Klein, second left, stands his ground against British players' protestation during a World Cup match between England and Brazil in Guadalajara, Mexico on June 7, 1970.
AP

Almost 35 years after retiring as one of the most senior soccer referees in the world – and 17 years after he stopped officiating youth matches, Abraham Klein's career is being commemorated in the FIFA World Football Museum in Switzerland. On October 25 the museum will hold a ceremony when it receives a substantial part of Klein's collection, which he accumulated during over 50 years as an internationally famous soccer referee.

For years, Klein tried to find a worthy place in which to display his rare collection to the public. It includes over 1,000 items, including balls, whistles, red and yellow cards, flags, emblems, ties, referee uniforms and more. Klein is not a professional collector, but he didn't throw away anything. The editor of his book, publisher and curator Mordi Alon, realized the potential, and helped to organize the collection, which originally was supposed to be offered at a public auction.

Abraham Klein and some of his soccer memorabilia, Haifa, March 2016.
Uzi Dann

Readers of Haaretz found out about the story on the these pages; thanks to Haaretz.com in English, the story also came to the attention of the FIFA museum, which just happened to have opened its doors at around the same time. FIFA decided it that wanted to house part of the rare collection and asked that the collection be removed from eBay.

At the end of a somewhat complicated story, Moritz Ansorge, the museum's curator, visited Israel, and, as a result, about 100 items will be shipped off to Zurich. These include a tracksuit worn by the referees in the 1982 World Cup, referee uniforms, balls from important games, a pressure gauge for balls, whistles, yellow cards on which Klein wrote the names of the players, and more.

The museum greatly appreciates the collection it has received, and director Marc Caprez, as well as Ansorge, describes the items as a treasure that came into their hands. Part of the collection was brought to Zurich by Klein and his wife Bracha last month. In honor of the transfer of the items to the museum there will be a festive event in Zurich in late October, to which Klein has invited the chairman of Israel Football Association Ofer Eini, chairman of the Referees' Union Uzi Itzhaki and Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, among others.

Abraham Klein with a ball from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Haifa, March 2016.
Uzi Dann