It is a playground pastime beloved by schoolboys but collecting football stickers has a new adult fan base, discovers Colin Drury...
IT was once a childhood hobby as much a part of world cup tradition as great goals, flamboyant strips and casual references to Germany’s less than enviable record in 20th century military conflicts.
Collecting stickers featuring football players you’d never heard of from countries you couldn’t point out on a map was a playground staple for generations of sports mad schoolboys. Few things - bar, perhaps, dreaming of one day scoring the final’s winning goal - could match the sheer exhilaration of opening a pack and seeing a shiny.
But now, it seems, this retro pastime has grown up.
Sticker album producers Panini reckon young (and young at heart) men (and women) are collecting its Brazil 2014 series in record numbers. And tomorrow will see what will almost certainly be Sheffield’s first ever adult World Cup Sticker Swap Shop - held in a city centre pub.
Fans can take their ‘spares’ along to the Common Room, in Devonshire Street and spend a couple of hours trading with other like-minded footy-mad souls. The bar itself has its own book and some 500 stickers ready to haggle with. There’s just the merest suggestion that if anyone can show off a completed album, they’ll get a free drink.
“Finishing a book is no mean feat - it takes dedication to the cause - so we’d probably be open to that” says manager Rich Herrett. “But this is about organising something where people can come together, share their excitement for the world cup and meet people with a similar interest.
“The trouble with collecting stickers when you’re not at school is you know less people doing it. You probably only have a handful of mates so this will give you a wider circle of people to deal with. It’s a bit of fun. We’re expecting a couple dozen.”
The adult retro revival is all an anti-reaction to the internet, it seems.
As the generation that never knew life Before Online passes into their late 20s, they’re increasingly looking for more ‘real’ social interactions. Nothing, arguably, is more real than negotiating two Costa Ricans and a Spanish team shot for a Cameroon shiny.
“Me and my mates were sat in the pub going through our swaps the other day and I just thought having an organised event would work,” says Dan Bathie, the Common Room’s 26-year-old duty manager who dreamed up the idea. “It’s nice to go back to your childhood. Although I’ve got to say the costs have risen since then. It used to be 20p for a pack of six. These days it’s 50p for five. That’s inflation for you.”
* World Cup Sticker Swap Shop runs 11.30am-1pm.