It is a sure sign that the countdown to the World Cup is on. The clamour to collect Panini stickers of all the players, teams and stadiums is like a mini tournament in itself.
The tradition was started by the Panini brothers in Italy fifty years ago. At an exchange market in Stuttgart, German collectors were enthusiastically trying to complete their albums.
“For me it’s the thrill of sticking the picture in the album, taking off the paper and then YES – your album is complete!” exclaimed nine-year-old Raffael.
Those from an older generation are likely to be taken back to childhood memories of the sixties or seventies. Then it was Pele, Banks and Beckenbauer everyone wanted. Today it might be Drogba, Messi, Ronaldo. The objective is the same: to complete the set.
“This is my oldest album: the ’78 World Cup in Argentina,” said 47-year-old Rüdiger Dorn proudly. “I have three of this same album. I got one in an auction on e-bay because there were three pictures missing in the other one and they were all there, in that e-bay album…”
Buying each packet of five stickers can be an expensive pursuit at sixty cents a go. The risk of duplicating players is serious. Panini are not complaining. During the World Cup in Germany four years ago they sold 160 million packets: two for everyone in the country.