“Got any swaps?”. Playgrounds up and down the country are reverberating to that phrase now that the FIFA World Cup 2014 is underway, and Panini sticker books are quickly filling up with the famous faces and star names of the teams looking to walk away with the trophy. Swaps, or, to the uninitiated, the duplicate stickers to be traded with other collectors in order to complete the Holy Grail – a completed sticker book – are a commodity in the same way cigarettes are in the prison yard, but far more wholesome. Sold in sealed packets, so you don’t know which players you’re getting until you open them, the Panini stickers are a pocket-money friendly institution for any football mad youth. And to be honest, some of us never grow out of collecting them.
Panini produces hugely popular sticker books for various sports and events worldwide, but the World Cup editions are perhaps the most anticipated and avidly collected. Mexico ’70 was the first tournament which Panini – a company founded by the eponymous Italian brothers in 1961 – produced a book for. The game was very different then, and it wasn’t just the players’ names and faces that were exotic, even some of the countries were new and exciting, especially if you didn’t pay attention in geography class. The stickers had a way of engaging young football fans with the tournament, putting names to the faces, bestowing a certain amount of knowledge about the tournament that could be tested and exchanged in playground conversation.
Nowadays, football is a global game, and many of the star players – often printed as special shiny stickers – are known to kids who are able to watch European matches on TV more easily. But that only adds to their appeal, and it’s fun to look out for the star of the future who have not yet made the move to a big club. We’re going to have a look back at past World Cup winning teams through the eyes of Panini, remember some of the familiar and forgotten names, and trace how the famous stickers have evolved over the years.
The original World Cup Panini sticker book. It was Brazil who took home the Jules Rimet trophy for keeps, as this was their third World Cup victory. The Brazil team stickers feature a mixture of artfully posed portraits and action shots, with the most famous names being defender Carlos Alberto, midfielders Tostão and Rivelino, and the incomparable forward Pelé, featuring in his fourth World Cup. The books also included the players’ positions, nicknames, and their domestic club, as well as the national team’s previous form in World Cups.
Compared to the cheerful Brazilians of 1970, this tournament’s champions, West Germany, were a serious looking bunch. Stiffly staring ahead, the pictures seem to have been taken from a mixture of pre-game anthem line-ups. Only 30-year-old forward Jürgen Grabowski manages to crack a smile, while star striker Gerd Müller looks like he’s just trying to make sure his hair doesn’t blow into his eyes. There’s also an appearance by Uli Hoeness, these days playing midfield for his prison team as he serves a sentence for tax fraud.
The Argentinians won the cup on home soil in front of nearly 72,000 fans in Buenos Aires, beating the “total football” of Johan Cruyff’s Dutch team who had also lost out in the ’74 final. The Argentinian team really couldn’t lose when it boasted Tottingham duo Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, and a defender called Daniel Killer, who looks like he could easily live up to his name. The portraits are notable for the many black backgrounds, as though the players have been ambushed by paparazzi coming out of Chinawhite in full kit at 3am.
Italy triumphed in the heat of Madrid, thumping the West Germans 3-1 with a masterclass of resolute Italian defending, allowing the Germans to run out of steam in the heat, plus some incisive breakaway play. Marco Tardelli unleashed a famously exuberant celebration when he scored Italy’s second from the edge of the area, but for his Panini sticker, the midfielder played it cool, with a cocksure pout that may have been the forerunner to Zoolander’s Blue Steel.
Mexico was on hosting duty again in ’86, with the sombrero-wearing mascot Pique a memorable addition this time around. With Diego Maradona at the peak of his powers, there could only be one winner, and the Argentinians saw off West Germany at the Azteca in a thrilling 3-2 final. Franz Beckenbauer added a loser’s medal as manager to one he received as a player when he was on the end of England’s historic 1966 win. Sucks to be you, Franz. Some nice mildly-gurning, mid-anthem singing shots of the Argentinian squad, which included Pedro Pasculli who’s grinning head looks like it’s been stuck on someone else’s body.
After losing in the previous two finals, West Germany were not to be denied for a third tournament, despite facing two-time champs Argentina who had bested them four years earlier. An ill-tempered game saw two Argentinians sent for an early bath, and the team only managed one shot on goal to the Germans’ 16. Despite their superiority and an attacking line that included Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann, it took an 85th minute penalty by defender Andreas Brehme to settle the match. Great tournament, crap final, criminal haircuts from the champions.
Oh Roberto Baggio, what have you done? The Divine Ponytail, one of the best players in the world at the time, skied a sudden death penalty for Italy to give Brazil their 20 millionth world cup victory. It’s amazing that the match went to a shoot-out considering the talent on display from both sides. Sadly no appearance in the Panini sticker book for Diana Ross, who had also hilariously fluffed a penalty in the tournament’s opening ceremony, again due to having ridiculous hair.
Home advantage and a team sheet covered with star names like Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry saw France overcome the frankly greedy Brazilians, whose main man Ronaldo was the subject of a nail-biting will-he-play-won’t-he-play late fitness test. Despite bravely necking some dodgy horse pills and turning out for his country, Ronaldo was off his game and Brazil went down 3-0 to the hosts. Thierry Henry was so cool he couldn’t even be bothered to look at the camera for his Panini shot.
Japan & South Korea 2002
That man Ronaldo was back with a bang as Brazil won again, besting the united Germany in Yokohama in the middle of the night, meaning no-one really remembers what happened. Restored to full fitness, albeit a little heavier than in his peak years, Ronaldo notched twice in the second half and grabbed the tournament Golden Boot in the process. Continuing the fine tradition of terrible World Cup haircuts, he managed the feat with a triangle of hair on the front of an otherwise shaved head, although the Panini sticker was taken pre-tournament and shows him looking relatively normal.
The world could scarcely believe their eyes as the teams ran out for the final and one of them wasn’t Brazil. The match between Italy and France ended 1-1, with Italy clinching the win on penalties. The highlight of the match, though, was Zinedine Zidane’s monumental retaliatory headbutt on smack-talking Marco Materazzi in the Frenchman’s last ever game – surely the only time an actual assault has been cheered by fans around the world? The Panini line-up was unremarkable except for Fabian Barthez, who looked like he was just about to do something typically nuts.
South Africa 2010
At long last, the World Cup enigma that was Spain got their hands on the trophy after decades of underachievement. The golden generation of Spaniards got the better of the Netherlands in the final, but they needed extra time to do it. At the final whistle Xabi Alonso looked a lot happier than he did in his furious sticker shot, whereas winning goalscorer Andrés Iniesta has never looked happier, or healthier, than in his Panini portrait. Give that make-up artist a bonus!