Panini has Unveiled Its World Cup 2014 Stickers, and Like Pokemon, We Gotta Catch ‘Em All

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This week Panini unveiled its World Cup Brazil 2014 Sticker Album. A staple of every World Cup cycle since 1970, the album is a perfect collectible item: it serves no real purpose. No news can be obtained from it that has not been googled before; even the squads are, for the most part, outdated. However, one can say confidently, it is one of the great traditions of this four year soccer celebration.

The album is so successful because it appeals to deeply primitive stuff. In the beginning we are back in hunter-gatherer mode: we prowl kiosks and newsstands in search of the sticker packets; we gather and study our findings. Then, once we store enough stickers, we are prepared to enter into a trading stage: careful evaluations and subtle maneuvers among our peers in search of that elusive and shiny stamp that seems not to exist.

It is an activity of a bygone time, no doubt. One can argue Fantasy Sports have taken over this elemental mode of participating in our favorite events – there are few things less zeitgeisty than gluing paper stickers onto a paper booklet. Fantasy Sports are dynamic, filled with challenges and up to the minute action. The Panini album, on the other hand, is akin to clipping photographs from magazines. But it is precisely its slowness, its analog charm and its tangible presence that make it addictive. “Only in extinction is the collector comprehended,” wrote Benjamin, as if he were contemplating the good-natured clumsiness of pasting footballers faces on a page.

Perhaps one of the unintended accomplishments of the Panini Albums over the years –they’ve been going strong since the Mexico 1970 World Cup– is the creation of a gallery of horrors. Here is just a minuscule glimpse into the treasures of bad haircuts and twitchy smiles the collectors hold in their hands.

Let’s begin with one of the biggest stars of the moment, current FIFA Player of the Year and Real Madrid winger and chief polarizing player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Here one can appreciate the evolution of style. CR7 circa 2006 was channeling his inner surf boy. Also, if you look closely at his upper lip, you can see his first attempts at airbrushing a mustache.

Speaking of channeling an inner personality, lets concentrate on Sweden’s Tomas Brolin impersonating a smiling soccer mom for USA 94 World Cup.

And here is Carlos Javier MacAllister, Argentinian, pretending to be Sir Bobby Charlton. Surely it has something to do with the Malvinas War.

Not everyone of the players seemed to have enjoyed the photoshoot. Some of them sported their most somber expression. For example, there is Morocco’s Mohamed “Unibrow” Maaroufi in the first Panini album.

Or behold Trifon Ivanov, who looks like he could have helped Count Dracula in his travels around the world.

Poor Gervinho, something is surely troubling him.

Then there are the haircuts. Not the players’ fault, obviously, they were just being trendy, hip, some of them even trendsetting. The first example comes from the home team at West Germany 1974 World Cup. Wolfgang Kleff, back up goaltender, wasn’t pulling any punches in the fashionable hair department.

Chile’s Ivan Tapia sported one of the flattest flat tops in the history of the Panini Albums.

And how can we forget current Mexican head coach, Miguel Herrera, who in 1994 was rocking it like it was 1983.