The World Cup is here, and I’m quite excited. Despite the avalanche of nonsense that goes with it – crap songs, crap adverts, endless corporate whoring, the irredeemable cartoon villainy of FIFA, Robbie Savage – I’m still giddy with anticipation, as I have been every four years for as long as I can remember. Like most other football followers, the tournaments of my youth are emblazoned on my mind’s eye. For me, now a thirty year old lapsed child, Italia ’90 feels like a glorious, hazy overture – a wonderful introduction to a game I would swiftly come to adore – of sodden, sweltering, bemulleted men diving, wailing and spitting their way to immortality. USA ’94 meanwhile, which I obviously remember far more vividly, feels like a garish explosion of kaleidoscopic kits, wilting, screaming Irishmen and voluminous, billowing goalnets, all viewed through a blazing shimmer of heat.
One other thing that stands out from 1994 is that it was the first tournament when I had an accompanying Panini sticker album. I’ll confess now that despite my best efforts, I failed to complete it, with maybe a half dozen elusive stickers presenting a gaping chasm between me and some serious playground kudos. I simply ran out of cash, with my £2 per week pocket money eventually stretched beyond breaking point by packet after packet of useless “gots” when all I really wanted were five or six “needs”.
Anyway, it’s now twenty years later, and I’m having another stab at it. I held off for a while, but having seen a few friends engaged in a frenzied session of swapsies, I’ve now surrendered. The only problem is, money is a little tight, and I can’t in good conscience really commit to an outlay of likely a couple of hundred pounds just to fill a sticker book. I am a cheapskate.
My solution is to obtain an empty Panini World Cup sticker album (wonderfully, you can pick one up for free from a branch of the Co-Op), and then simply draw in the stickers myself. I say “myself”, but in reality I will be aided and abetted by my strangely tolerant and disconcertingly enthusiastic other half Sian. She at least has an A-Level in Art, whereas my artistic prowess extends to being able to draw a quite good Homer Simpson and absolutely nothing else.
The World Cup starts today. Today. The Panini Official Licensed Sticker Album for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has 639 stickers. I’ve seen a few estimates stating that to fill the album without swapsies would cost in the region of, on average, £450. We are attempting to do it for exactly £0, with pens from Sian’s craft drawers (don’t ask) and stickers “borrowed” from a work stationery cupboard. 639 stickers to draw and colour. So far, we’ve done nine (Sian’s David Villa is an early highlight, my Cristiano Ronaldo a risible disgrace), meaning a nice round 630 still to go. If we are to finish by the day of the World Cup Final on Sunday 13th July , thirty-one days from now, we need to churn out about twenty stickers per day. That may prove to be a little ambitious… but please do check back and follow our progress.