These (digital) days, we tend to share our passion for football through apps, clips, emojis, gifs and memes.
But before the age of social media dawned, it’s safe to say that kids – and boys in particular – demonstrated their love of the beautiful game through collecting Panini stickers.
From begging your parents for enough small change to buy yet another packet to help fill the latest album, to taking spares to school in the hope that someone will need what you have and do a swap, the Panini addiction ensnared many generations of young football fans.
It was explored in the ITV4 documenary Stuck on You: The Football Sticker Story, which kicked off with various grown men reliving their childhood obsessions with completing Panini’s annual (and big tournament) collections of soccer star portraits.
Kelvyn Gardner explained how he was willing to swap a lovingly and painstakingly assembled model airplane just to get his hands on a much sought-after George Best sticker.
The documentary showed how collecting Panini’s product grew an initial craze in the early 1970s to a worldwide phenomenon.
We were shown old snippets of adverts and footage of schoolkids racing around the playground in the search of the card they desperately needed.
It all seemed very familiar to me. For some must-have stickers, we would happily exchange bundles of swapsies to complete a team page, and negotiations over what ‘X’ was worth could be tense.
There was the supreme satisfaction of buying a new packet that contained stickers you’d needed for a long time – but always balanced by the crushing disappointment of getting the same ones over and over again.
But it was all worth it for the sheer pleasure of finally being able to complete your favourite team’s page, or even the holy grail of completing an entire album.
As one contributor to Stuck On You suggested, peeling back the adhesive and sticking a team’s emblem in the top left corner of its page was akin to “therapy”, and they weren’t wrong.
But as the ‘craze’ endured, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Panini, an Italian company founded by two brothers in Modena in 1961.
As others eyed its success, rival firms muscled in on its territory and the sticker collecting industry also expanded into toys (Care Bears album, anyone?), pop stars and all sorts of other stuff.
Collecting football stickers may no longer be the massive deal it once was, with kids these days preferring to play as their idols on games such as Fifa 17 rather than just having their photo in an album.
But Stuck On You was a real blast from the past, and brought back a lot of memories for those of us who feverishly bought and traded in that sticky-backed currency of our childhood days. And let’s not forget the ‘free’ bubblegum…