Pleasure in Panini Paradise

Instead of running around the playground looking for a Fernando Torres, sticker album-lovers are scrolling through Twitter threads in search of Lyndon Dykes, as Amy Canavan explores.

(Photo Credit – Amy Canavan)

The nerves when ripping the pack open, the elation of spotting a shiny, the deflation knowing it’s a doubler. 

In lonely times, our country unites by channelling our inner youth. Looking back on the summer of 1998, one can still barely even believe that these six words are true following 23 years of heartache: Scotland are going to the Euros. 

In true Scottish style, Steve Clarke’s men brought those hellish years to an end, without any fans there to celebrate. Albeit, it would have taken much more than a pandemic for the faithful Tartan Army to feel disconnected in the midst of these jubilant and historic times. And indeed, that connection has only been made stronger since the real dream for every Scottish soccer sufferer came true. The enthusiasm, the passion and undeniably, the childish hysteria, at the release of the dedicated Panini sticker album. 

Everyone’s story will be different, yet still so similar. My relationship with Panini sticker albums began at the age of nine, in the lead up to one of the most highly anticipated FIFA World Cups – South Africa. The Jabulani, the Vuvuzela… Simpler times.

No Scotland, No Party. (Photo Credit – Amy Canavan)

The ‘Got, Got, Need’ phenomenon was introduced to me by my dad, and it truly is one of those bonding scenarios I look back on with joy.

He would come home around Saturday lunchtime after his work and in his back pocket were always five new sticker packets for us to delve into. There was, of course, the fear of creating a crease while placing Didier Drogba or the inability to peel David Beckham off without tearing him, but the happiness overshone it all. 

When it got to the nitty gritty of the final few stickers, my dad was trading our doublers from the seat at his work desk, finding friends worldwide as well as in the office, whilst I played my part by trading in the playground. I assume all dads are similar in that whilst gifting and sharing the experience of a sticker album is for their child’s enjoyment, deep down, it really is their baby. 

But how do we trade in a socially-distanced COVID climate? We turn to #ScotSwap.

Kicked into the twitter-sphere by Scotland and sticker-album fanatics Gordon and Craig, aka The Tartan Scarf and FKMPodcast, the campaign is bringing fans and traders together over the platform, including the creators of the hashtag themselves.

“There was an element of self-interest. I bulk-bought the box of 50 packets from Amazon to minimise my trips to the shop in a pandemic…after opening them all, I had about 25 to go and a whole stack of doubles. In talking to Craig, we agreed it would be great to use our platforms to encourage people to exchange messages and swap stickers.” Admitted Gordon Sheach, who described the album as the “touchpoint that makes it all real” of being at the Euros.

“I certainly feel like a lot of middle-aged Scotland dads who collected as kids are now using the album as a gateway to introduce their own children to following the national team, which will hopefully be one of the enduring legacies of the summer.

“The buzz of opening a packet to see a little silver of a shiny poking out gives you the same rush whether you’re in primary school or in your thirties.

“It’s something tangible that we can all feel and more importantly, we can all share. The fact it’s been 23 years since the men last qualified meant that even in normal times the demand for any Euros related merchandise would have been unbelievable, but certainly given the times we’re living in everyone has needed something a bit silly and fun to focus on. 

“I’m really proud to have been able to play a small part in helping people meet new friends and arrange swaps and the fact it has meant I’ve been able to complete my collection has been a real bonus!”

So, instead of dropping IM’s in the office, share your ‘needs’ and ‘doublers’ with #ScotSwap and the sticker world is your oyster. I’m still in need of a shiny Keiran Tierney, so if anyone wants to provide an assist, I’d be more than grateful. 

Amy Canavan has been shortlisted for the Football Writers’ Association Student Football Writer of the Year award.

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