Stuck on You
It started with Alessandro Altobelli.
An action shot of him is all I can remember from a packet of collectable cards with a stick of funny-tasting chewing gum that a friend gave me in 1986. I loved these little pictures, and so quickly moved on to Panini stickers, and I think it was the stickers more than the football that made that tournament the catalyst for my love of the game.
I remember finding the iconic and beautiful packs of the League Football 87 stickers (featuring the iconic flying scissor kick) in a bag in my Nanna’s pantry, she had bought for me and my cousins. I loved the fact that the Scottish teams were half the size, two on one, just as the likes of Algeria had been a year earlier.
I remember buying packets of Calcio 94 featuring obscure Serie A and B badges and faces, from a stall on the harbour of Capri during a school trip, and the same year, proudly completing the Merlin Premier League Collection, the annual of which I still have.
It wasn’t aways football – Return of the Jedi, Back to the Future, Garbage Pail Kids, Batman, any thing you could waste your money on little numbered images of – and I now see that the collecting of stickers, is instrinsically linked to my development as not just a football fan, but as a young man.
Collecting, as a famous wiki reliably informs us, includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. For Freud, collecting goes back to early childhood, and toilet training, whilst another less well known psychologist claims it ‘helps us deal with trauma’. I’m not convinced by this, though do recognise the need to ‘cling to a youth, slipping away’ that Peter Blake described or wanting to capture the essence of something ‘before it fades’ a la Joseph Cornell.
A sticker book, specifically a world cup, provides a snapshot of the squad players, kit, stadiums, fashions, of the time, which is presumably why the Mexico ’86 albums I’ve been bidding on for the last few days on eBay are in such high demand, receiving expensive bids.
And, nowadays, stickers are just not the same. For example, I got a bundle of twenty free albums in ‘the’ ASDA recently and they already had six of the best players free in the middle. However, packets now cost 50p for just five stickers. Meanwhile, schools often ban swaps in the playground for fear of bullying, and Match Attax, a complicated cross between Top Trumps and old-fashioned Panini etc I played recently with a young man who was far too good at it, seems to have taken over.
Still, a recent armed robbery in Brazil of a hundred thousand figurinhas from a factory in Sao Paolo, where the craze is as popular as ever (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAs1PdGSvFg&feature=player_embedded#!) and the discovery of 20000 fake stickers in Italy, the home of the sticker (the Panini brothers started selling cards in 1961, which came to England in 1978 just in time for my own arrival) show the lengths people will go to to make money by feeding people’s desires.
I wouldn’t have bothered this year, passing on albums to my godson and friends’ kids and maybe use them in lessons, were it not for a colleague pronouncing his excitement at rediscovering the habit, then our esteemed editor commenting on how small the new stickers seem. Slowly it became apparent that I would have to give it another go this year, for old times’ – or an article’s – sake.
Buying the three packets I am about to open for you, wasn’t easy. The ruddy-faced fellow behind me in the Co-Op found it hilarious that I should be buying stickers:
“They ARE a gift, right?” he grunted.
“Er, no, they’re for me actually.”
“Shouldn’t that be cream soda and not Stella you’re buying then?”
Cream Soda? Do kids still drink that nowadays? I laughed, mainly because of the whole being-asked-for-ID debacle that happened in the same shop recently.
Then, the clincher: “Well, my thirty four year old son has started to suck his thumb again, BECAUSE HE CAN.”
I have no idea what this meant, perhaps Freud was right…
But the fact I have a little more disposable income nowadays than my pocket money should mean I can do what I want, regardless of responsibilities, no?
Anyway, I escaped home and lined up the three packets, A, B and C, which I will now open for you in ‘real time’:
Perhaps the most obscure packet imaginable. I have never heard of most of the players in there! Maybe I’m being ignorant, but Pak Nam Chol of North Korea, Seol Ki-Hyeon of South Korea, Emilio Izaguirre from Honduras do not look or sound familiar, and even the Swiss pair of Christoph Spycher and Tranquillo Barnetta are not easily recognisable.
Hopefully the next two will make up for this disappointing start.
OK so we have a slight improvement here. The standout sticker is obviously the New Zealand ‘shiny’, the genus of sticker that always brings a pang of excitement – surely Roald Dahl pre-empted the sensation with Charlie’s golden ticket? – and then Simon Kjaer, a yound Danish defender I’ve been hearing lots of good stuff about, not just because his team Palermo’s kit is similar to the new Everton away kit (more of which next time). I have had a soft spot for Denmark since the Hummel kit of ’86 and the Laudrups, so wish them well.
Making up the quintet is Pereira – I also like Uruguay because of Enzo Francescoli – Hashimoto of Japan and Rukavina the Serbian.
I can’t help still feeling a little underwhelmed, though.
Eric Abidal plays for Barca so that’s a positive. De Nigris of Mexico played well against England recently and I’ve also always liked Mexico for Hugo Sanchez reasons. Alexis Sanchez apparently plays for Chile, and Kang Min-Soo South Korea. Only one sticker remains, and thankfully it’s another type I was always fond of.
I always liked was the team photos, partly because they are landscape and not portrait, and here I have Honduras. I know very little about them and am therefore more excited about seeing them than other more familiar teams.
And if I’m honest, that’s the point.
The World Cup brings together nations (some would say too many) some of which we will only know one or two players, familiarity has not yet bred contempt and as a result they have a freshness and an unknown quality that the sticker album encapsulates – faces and names from afar we grow to know, years later they may be household but now they are new born, to me any way, and throughout the years, they always have been.
Which is why I will continue to waste money on these little bits of paper – the gaze of admiration, the expectancy, the information they offer, the obsessive compulsion to document World Cup 2010.
Before it fades.