Swapsies, Shinies & Sets

Football Stickers

Like a kid in a sweet shop, that’s what it felt like when I stuck the first sticker in my brand new album. I’m not talking about 20 years ago either, I’m talking about 2 weeks ago when at the age of 30 I indulged myself and for the first time in my adult life I bought a football sticker book. It was everything I imagined, my anticipation and excitement levels were off the chart, I hastily unwrapped the album and ripped open the brand new packet of stickers. Suddenly the memories of yesteryear came flooding over me and I was back in my parents lounge with my younger brother eagerly comparing our treasured collections. As I looked at each new sticker a new wave of memories hit, there I was stood on the school playground with 5 or 6 friends, swapsie piles in our hands all trying to out barter each other and get our hands on missing players and prized shinies to complete our sets.

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It’s the boss’s fault

It started out as a laugh with my boss, who was probably a bit fed up of hearing me go on about the upcoming European Football Championships in France. I think they were slightly mystified by my assertion that the day off I’d booked (16th June) was solely because I didn’t want to miss the England vs Wales group game which kicked off at 2pm. I’d made sure they were aware of just how big a deal the football was to me.

So I came into work one Monday morning to find 3 unopened packets of Panini Euro 2016 stickers. It turns out they were from my boss who whilst shopping at the weekend had spotted them and remembering my current football fever, they decided to buy me some as a bit of fun.  I found it funny, but then an idea popped into my head, what if I started collecting the stickers properly? I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook posting about how they were collecting “with their kids” they seemed to be having great fun in reliving their childhood memories, maybe I could too. I’d often seen the Panini stickers on sale and smiled at the memories they triggered but I’d always dismissed the idea of actually collecting any as something for kids to do. I can’t deny though the recollections of days gone by did generate little pangs of desire, like most guys  my age the chance to act like a big kid again is always appealing. Well here was the perfect excuse for me to do just that, I could start collecting too. I might not have a child to collect for but I’d been bought some stickers and I couldn’t let my boss’s hard earned money go to waste!

The joy of collecting

I got myself on Amazon and I found a Panini UEFA Euro 2016 France sticker collection starter pack (incl Album + 81 stickers) to get me started. Fast forward to delivery day and I couldn’t wait to get a look at my new sticker album but more importantly I was desperate to see which stickers I’d end up with. First out of the pack was number 325 – Northern Ireland’s Michael McGovern which might seem like it was a bit of an anti climax, surely I wanted Cristiano Ronaldo one of the world’s best players or England’s record top scorer Wayne Rooney (sorry Michael). In actual fact it wasn’t an anti-climax at all, I was over the moon. Here I was a fully grown adult and a new mission had opened up before me – collect the sets and fill the sticker book. Coincidentally Michael McGovern was also the first sticker I got duplicated so he had the honour of being first in my book and first on the swapsie pile.

Given how ridiculously overexcited all this had made me it’s a wonder I didn’t collapse from hysteria when I got my first shiny! It was number 569 one of the Portugal team shinies, so not some little team that never got anywhere but an actual shiny from one of the bigger teams featuring none other than Cristiano Ronaldo himself. The shiny glistened and sparkled and it was a truly magical moment when I carefully peeled off the backing paper and placed it tenderly in the album.

I have to say that since getting those first few stickers I have found a strange pleasure not only in seeing my sticker book start to fill up, but also in the actual act of buying the packets of stickers themselves. I’m sure part of this is knowing that as a working and earning adult I can buy more packs of stickers than I could ever of dreamed of as a child. Another part though is the knowledge that a quick browse of the internet reveals hundreds of other people out there in the same position as me. We’re not collecting for our kids or nieces and nephews, we’re collecting for ourselves and we’re reliving a treasured part of our childhood desperately trying to fulfil the compulsion to amass the best collection we can.

The only question for me now is will I get that final satisfaction of filling the book and completing a collection? I guess time, dedication to the mission and my bank balance will provide the answer to that question, I’ll let you know when I find out.