Abraham Klein, Israel's veteran soccer referee, presented items from his personal collection to the FIFA World Football Museum in an emotional ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday.
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Klein, who officiated at three World Cup tournaments, retired 35 years ago after serving as one of the most senior soccer referees in the world.
The items in the collection include whistles he used during the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 and in Argentina in 1978, and soccer balls used in some of the most important games in the sport’s history, including Brazil vs. England in the 1970 World Cup and Brazil vs. Italy in the World Cup in Spain in 1982.
Senior officials from the Israeli Embassy in Switzerland were among those who attended the ceremony, as well as FIFA representatives, heads of the local Jewish community, the chairman of the Israel Referees Association, Uzi Yitzhaki, and former Polish referee Michal Listkiewicz, who is now the supervisor of referees at FIFA.
“I stand before you today at this festive occasion, excited and happy. This event closes a circle in my career,” Klein said at the ceremony.
“It is a real privilege that my sports souvenir collection, which reflects and embodies decades of an international soccer career, found its most appropriate and deserving home, and will be housed forever in the hall of honor and glory of international soccer – the FIFA Museum.”
Although the collection had already arrived in Zurich and has been on display, Klein pulled one last surprise out of his sleeve for the occasion. His daughter Sharon had found the ball from one of the three games he managed during the 1978 World Cup in a closet, and Klein presented it to the associates of Moritz Ansorge, who is responsible for the FIFA collections.
Klein's rare collection includes over 1,000 items like 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.