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Panini World Cup 2018 stickers: The enduring attraction of football fans’ greatest companion

With the World Cup less than two months away, sticker collecting has begun in earnest - but why does the hobby still have such an attraction around the globe?

“In my backpack these days is my laptop, my work folder and now my sticker album.”

Royi is a 31-year-old Londoner who, around this time every four years, will embark on the time-honoured tradition of buying, sticking, and completing the Panini World Cup sticker album.

Since releasing their first World Cup album in 1970, the phenomenon has grown from a small Italian family business to distributing the product to over 125 countries around the globe.

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However, this isn’t just the pursuit of young lads in the playground – it now stretches to adults exchanging ‘swapsies’ requests on Twitter and WhatsApp groups.

“I collected Premier League stickers at primary school and have really fond memories of it,” says Jez, another collector.

“In the lead up to the 2014 World Cup a partner I sit with in my law firm started collecting ‘for his children’ and I was inspired to rekindle my interest in it.

“I specifically remember in 2014 watching England v Uruguay on a public screen in the City and seeing two blokes in Colombia shirts swapping stickers, so I went up to them and got involved.

“It’s like a fraternity of like-minded individuals.”

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It certainly is like a fraternity of like-minded individuals, as this writer can attest to.

Because, yes, I also collect football stickers, and yes, I am a member of a WhatsApp group discussing potential swaps.

But what’s in it for people like myself? What is it about opening a pack of stickers and putting them in an album that conjures up such dedication for months leading up to a World Cup?

“Ostensibly I’m doing it with my son,” says fellow collector Daniel.

“But in reality that’s just an excuse. I just love the sense of nostalgia, the feel of opening a packet and then sticking it in perfectly.

“It’s also a good education in advance of the World Cup – I hardly know anything about half the teams, so it’s useful in that respect.”

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These are view shared by Jez, who, like many collectors you might speak to, enjoys the physical aspect of collecting items in a world now dominated by apps on smartphones.

He adds: “There is certainly something very nostalgic about the process, and having something physical to show for your efforts is very satisfying.

“I will keep the albums forever. Admittedly I do use an app to keep tabs on what I’ve got and need so that I don’t have to take my album into the office.”

Collectors of a certain age will know the feeling when you let friends and colleagues know that you’re collecting stickers ahead of the World Cup.

Reactions range from ‘Oh, nice! I used to do that’, to ‘Aren’t you a bit old for that?’, to ‘It’s not for me anymore, but can I please open one of your packs that you’ve just bought from the shop? Just for old times’ sake? Please?’

It’s an all too familiar feeling for collectors around the globe who have either never lost the love of sticker collecting, or have recently got back into it.

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“I don’t talk about it to everyone, but if it comes up and there’s a chance that someone else may be collecting, then I bring it up,” says Royi.

He continues: “But in most cases my wife rolls her eyes whenever I talk about it.

“I’ve found a website that can swap stickers online, and when stickers arrive in the post she gives me that look of ‘Urgh, you’re so lame’. I do get a bit of that, which is funny.”

Jez has found himself in increasingly familiar situations in recent weeks whenever he brings up the subject with friends.

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“I’m very public about it all,” he says.

“I enjoy the smirks from people who say it’s “childish”, yet I see the look in their eyes when I open a pack and get a shiny!”

There is a wonderfully enduring quality to sticker collecting, and in a frantic age in which everything is done in an instant, it’s an oasis of calm, a hands-on activity in a world where everything else is done in a tap and a swipe.

Most importantly, it feels like a great achievement when you’ve finally stuck the final sticker in, and for many it will be the final piece of preparation before the tournament kicks off on June 14.

“I have the 2014 World Cup sticker album on my bookshelf at home,” Royi continues.

“And once I finish this one I’m planning to put this one next to it, and hope it will become a conversation point for anyone who sees it.”


READ MORE:

Pick up your free album and starter stickers with The Sun on Saturday on April 21. Plus from Sunday, April 22 – Friday, April 27 get a free sheet of stickers every day… go on, you know you want to.