Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Difficult Second Album

While in a bookshop in Trieste last week my attention was caught by a peculiar book, a compilation of Panini World Cup sticker albums from 1970 to 2002. Most male European adults of my generation (and more) will have spent their childhood years desperately trying to fill at least one of these things (the North American equivalent, and no doubt, the original model, is the baseball card). I managed to complete a couple of the Football League (as it was known back then) albums and also the World Cup ones of 1986 and 1990, though to be honest, at the age of 14 in 1990, I already knew I was a bit old for it, and I kept the operation secret. All the more impressive that I finished the thing without having a single person of my own age to swop doubles with.

Though I am as prone as anyone else to making purchases that I afterwards find hard to justify, I did not buy this one, a bit pricey at €18. But I did spend quite a while flicking through it, triggering off memories from my formative years. The sticker albums are presented with the stickers as mere pictures, which I could not help thinking as a form of cheating, having put so much effort and expense into filling those albums years back. Some posterior amendments have been made such as naming the birthplace of a Soviet player from the '82 World Cup as St. Petersburg - it was still Leningrad at the time - and Andreas Escobar has been removed from the Colombian team of USA 94, presumably out of respect for the fact that he was murdered by gangsters a week after his team's exit. It was strange to see that of the old Soviet teams, so few were Russian, the bulk of the teams were Ukrainian, Georgian or Belorussian. It was also poignant to see the Yugoslav teams of the 1980s, where the Bosnian Muslims Haris Skoro and Faruk Hadzibegic lined up beside the Bosnian Serb Vujovic twins, shortly before their respective nations would be at one anothers' throats. I also noticed something that I am surprised I failed to see at the time, that Argentina included in its squad for USA 94 one Carlos Javier MacAllister, and he had a similar face (and widow's peak) to his old country namesake Gary.