World Cup Panini stickers: my collect call to Germany

Collecting is far more important than winning, but why are Women's World Cup Panini stickers only on sale in Germany?

It's not about the winning, it's about collecting the Panini stickers. They are the highlight of any World Cup, the one thing guaranteed not to end in disappointment.

I've got every sticker – bar one player from the Brazilian 1970 team – from every Panini World Cup album ever since they were first produced for the Mexico World Cup in 1970. And hundreds and hundreds of doubles.

Many Germans clearly feel the same way. A first print run of 4.5m packs – there are five stickers in each – for the 2011 Women's World Cup that starts in nine days' time has already sold out and a reprint has been ordered. But how come these packs are not on sale anywhere else? Panini is a global brand, the World Cup is supposedly a global brand and yet there is no way you can get your hands on them outside Germany.

I'd guess it's got something to do with this World Cup being a Women's World Cup and women's football being of less interest to most football fans. But that's to fundamentally misunderstand the psychology of collecting. I couldn't really care who wins the men's World Cup – my football loyalties are club only – and I couldn't care who wins the Women's World Cup either. Sorry England.

Nor do I care that I wouldn't know any of the players from any of the women's teams; I didn't know any of the players from the Paraguayan men's team last year and I wanted several of them far more urgently than my three spare Jermain Defoes. So I probably wouldn't have noticed that Panini had included the same woman North Korean footballer twice.

The most interesting thing about any footballer is the space they occupy in an album.

But that's a pleasure Panini seem intent on denying me this time round. So a message to someone in Germany: please start flogging the stickers on eBay over here.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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