The Panini obsession: football sticker albums are making us happy again
Why are thousands of fully-grown students spending their money on football stickers?
In this testing time of coursework and hangovers, it’s easy to lose sight of your childhood. The days when your biggest concern was waking up in time for Power Rangers are long gone, replaced by the painful realisation that you’re about to leave education and face the big, bad world of employment, mortgages and responsibility.
Across the country, students are turning to Panini World Cup sticker albums as a way of remembering their youth. They’re not cool, they’re not impressive and, actually, they’re not cheap. But there’s something nostalgic and perfectly innocent about it, like The Lion King, Sunny Delight and Cica trainers with flashing lights in the heels.
You may laugh, but any avid sticker collector will tell you of the thrill they feel when they tear open that 50p pack of five. Or the rush when they smoothly peel their Souleymane Bamba or Cristian Gamboa from the paper, ready to be painstakingly lined up on the page. It’s addictive and it’s captivating fully-grown adults everywhere.
The official Panini sticker account has over 5,000 followers, the hashtag “gotgotneed” has gone viral and one brave sticker-smuggler has even created stickerswapping.com. But, with 639 to collect at 10p each, it would cost at least £60 to complete. Unless you hijack a lorry and steal 300,000, of course.
Panini are clearly making a killing, and skint students are funding them.
In the space of just a few weeks, the album has become the sticker-enthusiast’s prized possession.
Benjamin Jenkins, a 21-year-old student at Oxford Brookes, said: “I’m really OCD about mine. Nobody else is allowed to stick them in and if one isn’t perfectly straight then my whole day is ruined. It’s what I spend my money on instead of booze when I’m in revision mode.”
For others, it’s a lifestyle change. Mim Patel, a fourth year student at Nottingham Uni, said: “It keeps me healthy – I have to walk to campus because all my one pound coins for the bus have been spent on finding that Japanese goalkeeper to complete my team.
“I started collecting stickers mainly to get in the mood for the World Cup, but also so I could look adoringly at the England team every time I woke up and before I went to bed.”
Durham student Vincent Lim said: “It all started off with a third year mate of mine walking into our college bar with a sticker book and about £10 worth of stickers in hand. The pure, unadulterated look of joy on his face made it an easy decision.”
Bournemouth student Will Burton was in a dissertation meeting when he got two calls from his housemates. “I thought it was something urgent”, he said. “But when I got home I saw a World Cup sticker book with my name written in pen on the front and £50 worth of stickers next to it… that was 500 stickers.
“We’re all fourth years with important deadlines in the two weeks, but boys will be boys.”
Considering pretty much all of that student loan is disposable (right?), there’s a good chance that students could actually complete the book. Lim said that this sort of cash “just wasn’t available in the playground days of old”, when pocket money and the wisdom of your parents could only take you as far as finding the odd shiny or second-hand Darren Anderton.
It’s made easier by the fact that so many people are jumping on the bandwagon. Even if you do spend £64 on it, the odds of not getting any duplicates in those 640 stickers are even worse than something crazy happening like Liverpool throwing away a three goal lead in ten minutes or a massive plane going missing out of Malaysia, so you’re going to need to turn to swapsies.
In the social hub that is your campus bar or lecture hall, this has never been easier.
Not everyone is feeling the love, though. Shockingly, some people have even suggested that spending half your weekly budget on sticky paper isn’t cool, mature or sexy.
21-year-old Nottingham Trent student Jennie Gale said: “It’s a glorified colouring book and those who use them clearly have a mental age of about five or six. It’s not attractive at all.”
UCL student Kat Exelby agrees. “It’s so embarrassing and childish,” she said. “How can students actually go out and pay this much money for stickers? Some of them are going to be graduating in a few weeks, it’s laughable.”
Maybe it is. But maybe there’s nothing wrong with trying to create one last connection to your childhood? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with having a hobby that extends beyond Friends re-runs and masturbation? And maybe there’s nothing wrong with crying genuine tears as you unwrap your sixth Dmitri Kombarov?
Do you have any stickers to swap? Comment below (with your email address), or tweet with the hashtag #tabswapshop