Swaps!

In yet another instance of reliving my childhood, I bought a Panini World Cup sticker album yesterday – for Heather, not for me, honest!

It brought a load of memories from when I was 11 or 12 flooding back. Buying a new pack or two of stickers from the newsagent before school every morning. The excitement of discovering and then carefully attaching a new player neatly into his allotted spot, mixed with the disappointment of finding that you had just got Ray Clemence¬†again. Clutching an ever-growing stack of ‘swaps’ (including nine spares of the aforementioned Clemence, say), carefully arranged in numerical order and ready to be bartered in the playground for Little Jimmy’s unwanted foil Arsenal badge. Memorising the players of each team on each page and their individual statistics. The pride you felt once you were finally in a position to send off for the last few stickers needed to complete your album.

Ah, innocent times.

These days, there’s no need to find a playground to engage in swaps; eBay serves as an excellent substitute (and one which doesn’t run the risk of you being placed on the sex offenders’ register). But the sense of anticipation which comes when you open a fresh pack of stickers hasn’t gone away.

There are many, easier ways of preparing for a major football tournament. And with football websites two-a-penny, there are certainly more accurate, up-to-date and cheaper ways of getting to know the 32 teams who will line up in South Africa in 36 days’ time. (Even taking advantage of retailers’ multibuy offers on sticker packs, it would cost around ¬£55 to complete the Panini album, assuming no duplicates whatsoever.)

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Whether it’s childhood nostalgia or the simple thrill of assembling and then completing a collection, the humble, outdated sticker album still has a place in my heart – it certainly does in my household.