Football in spotlight in LA, 20 years after World Cup

 Football in spotlight in LA, 20 years after World Cup
Brazil 2014 World Cup logo

LOS ANGELES, - Two decades after hosting the World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, Los Angeles is paying tribute to the global game in a show celebrating football greats like Pele, Zidane and Eto'o.

"Futbol: the Beautiful Game" at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) uses photos, paintings and videos to explore the fan worship of the sport's biggest stars, as well as its economic power and social and cultural impact.

One of the most arresting pieces is an Andy Warhol painting of Pele, which the artist dedicated to the Brazilian icon in 1978, three years after he joined the New York Cosmos, his last club.

For Warhol, "it was about that concept of celebrity, in the same way that he would be looking at Mick Jagger or Elizabeth Taylor," the show's curator Franklin Sirmans told AFP.

Pele was, along with Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Dutchman Johan Cruyff, one of the stars attracted to the United States to try to popularise the sport and the North American Football League (NASL) in a country obsessed with baseball and American football.

The effort was a fiasco - the league, created in 1968, disappeared ignominiously in 1984 - but football's governing body FIFA gave the United States another chance by letting them stage the 1994 World Cup.

Despite initial criticism, the competition was a huge success, with full stadiums, well-functioning infrastructure and clear signs that Americans were actually embracing a sport that had long struggled to catch on here.

A year later, Major League Football (MLS) was born. The professional league has gone from strength to strength in the two decades since then.

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