My Guilty World Cup Secret

Don’t panic, I’m not going to go all Oprah on you all, but I’ve got a confession to make that a man of my age can’t hide. Every 4 years, the World Cup comes around and over here in Europe we’ve a company called Panini who make sticker books for most major tournaments and leagues. Since the 1980’s I used to collect them until about 1988 until the surly teenager in me decided I was far too mature to muck about with such childish entertainment. No more swapping  Ian Rush for Gary Lineker in the school yard, oh no. I’d got beer, music and girls to keep me interested instead.

I know in the States that the big thing for junior sports fans is trading cards, which have only recently taken off here in the UK, so I’m unsure as to what anyone based in North America will make of them or even know what they are, but in Europe they’re big business. Yet, since the 1998 World Cup, I’ve always bought a Panini World Cup sticker book. I can’t help myself and I got the latest one last week. No really, I did.

Of course these days, the Internet is here and I can trawl through cyberspace laughing away at some of the ridiculous haircuts, mustaches and kits of yesteryear. There is such a wave of nostalgia for these sticker books that I’ve even seen articles from Germany discussing the way players used to look, which you can read at Bild’s website here and see if you recognise any of the names mentioned!!

It’s just weird that here I am with all the modern entertainment I have at my disposal, from my X-Box, to Digital TV, DVD’s and my I-pod that something so basic, so simple should still have such an emotional attachment to me. On the Guardian website the other week, someone sent in a link to this fantastic site which has scanned the entire Italia 90 sticker book online! A virtual reality treasure trove of memories, both good and bad of such an amazing tournament.Have a scroll through it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

That was probably the catalyst for me to delve back in to trying, once again to complete the album, which I know now I won’t do, even though I tell myself I shall. It’s amazing that something so trivial can transport you back to a more innocent time and looking back you can see so many names that have drifted away in to the depths of time.

Grown men all over the UK have started to secretly pretend they’ve got kids now to try and cover up their sticker based addictions, as this current thread on a Crystal Palace message board proves. I am not alone in my addiction, though I doubt I can seek counseling over such vices but it’s nice to know I’m not the saddest man out there. After purchasing my latest sticker book, I was disappointed to only get 2 England players out of 70 stickers which means of course that’ll keep buying them! The seminal British magazine When Saturday Comes has also seen some of its contributors weigh in with some memories of those days too. An amusing discussion is still trundling along here.

For me, it’s a fundamental part of the World Cup experience for fans over here young and old and even now, nearly 30 years on from my first sticker book, Espana 1982, it’s heartwarming to see the Panini World Cup sticker book on the shelves in stores. It’s one of those things that sets the clock ticking down towards the kick off to the tournament and with it, a little bit of me thinks back to those faraway days of swapping stickers with school friends.

7 thoughts on “My Guilty World Cup Secret”

  1. Ha! Nice one! I believe I have Panini book from the 2006 WC and a few Topps books featuring Premiership teams from a few years back. That said, I don’t really collect them with any vigor.

  2. I admit, I’m doing it too and so hooked I’m also doing the online virtual version which is even more adictive. My little girl loves it too… Which makes me feel a bit better about doing it :)

  3. Does anyone know where you can get it in the States? Growing up in Colombia I would always do it, but of course here is much harder to find.

    1. This year will be the first occasion that the collection can be found on sale in some major US retailers, including Walmart, although distribution will be focused on Hispanic areas.
      There will also be free albums given away with high profile Spanish language newspapers and sports magazines.
      Contact Panini America at for more information

  4. My earliest memory of collecting Panini stickers was from the 1978 World Cup. So many wonderful memories of collecting stickers, the smell of them and the quest to fill the books!

    The Gaffer

  5. Was thrilled to find stickers at my local exxon gas station in nj. So quickly snapped up 10 packs. Went back the next day…. someone had bought the lot in one go! (cheap move IMO). Anyway no luck ay my local walmart and no other signs of stores here selling them. Curious anyone in the US found random stores carrying them??

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