Before everyone started putting ham, cheese and coleslaw into them Panini was synonymous with the childhood pursuit (and let’s face it there were older fellas secretly engaged too) of football sticker collection. The Italian company happened upon the idea of the football sticker album for the 1970 World Cup and such was its popularity that they’ve pursued the same line of business for each subsequent football tournament ever since.
Of course it mattered not a jot that the overall cost of assembling a completed Panini sticker album was akin to the transfer fee of a lesser Irish player. The pleasure and inherent joy in affixing well known international football faces to their allotted position was something that money could not buy. The initial surge of fun filled adrenaline was felt early, just as soon as the stickers that came free with the album revealed themselves in fact. From then on in each package of half-a-dozen stickers were greeted with a mixture of hope, expectation and no little glory.
I joined the Panini bandwagon for Mexico ’86, but it was Italia ’90 and Ireland’s participation at their very first World Cup that whipped me into an adhesive fuelled frenzy. So much so, that I was not only filling the coffers of Panini but also a rival of theirs called Orbis. The latter’s expansive lever-arch type folder contained all sorts of collectible goodies including articles on classic games, player profiles and a near impossible to complete compendium of stickers.
My obsession with mission completion during Panini’s Italia ’90 campaign lead to a long held grudge for, the otherwise pleasant goalkeeper, Gerry Peyton owing to the unseemly regularity at which he appeared in far too many sticker packets. That said there was plenty of comfort to be drawn from the rich gluey smell that exuded from each freshly opened packet. It amounted to the only legal high we could lay our hands back then and the very thought of it now has me sniffing like a back alley addict.
So in the spirit of nostalgia and with the 25th anniversary of Italia ’90 upon us feel free to take a gander below at the Irish team (click on each to see a bigger image), as lifted directly from the pages of Panini’s sweet smelling confection of footballing heads.
- Author: Kevin Dunphy