One of the most memorable World Cups for many, including myself, was Mexico ’86. It was highlighted by the emergence of the brilliant and controversial legend Diego Maradona, along with his infamous “Hand of God” goal that broke the hearts of a nation and a certain 10-yr old boy 😢. You can easily search the details of this tournament with much more accuracy on Wikipedia than my mind can remember but what you won’t read there is my personal story of a young English schoolboy doing what all his age did at the time, and that was to try to collect an epic complete Panini sticker album. And while the tournament itself had some scandal, including the above mentioned goal, and the mascot Pique (seen below) who was deemed to be stereotyping the Mexican people, I was enduring a bit of my own along the way otherwise I would not writing this edition to my Flashback Friday collection. Intrigued yet?, of course you are, let’s do this.
There was nothing better than hitting up the corner shop after school to buy the sticker packages with whatever change you could wrangle out of your mom earlier that morning, it was the wait during the day that was agonizing for an admittedly obsessed child, but I was not alone. Me and my friends would sit on the curb outside and tear open those packages hoping for anything unique, something that became more and more difficult as the album filled up, leading to quite a large stack of extras that you could use to trade with. Long story short, after weeks of bartering it came down to needing just one sticker to be the first in the school to complete the full album. It was a particularly devious scheme by Panini to keep you buying packages I am sure because nobody had this one. Ultimately, out of desperation I made a public offer to anyone in the school who came up with it that I would give up my entire extras stack in exchange for it. I knew this was pretty much giving someone else an almost completed album, yes the stack was no longer able to be held by an elastic band, but I also knew they would be agonizingly that same sticker away from 100%, had a bit of devious nature myself. And then the day came, rumors circulated that somebody had it but they were not sure they were going to give it up, but fortunately Jonathan was not close to completion and the lure of the stack was too much. Done, right? There is a wrinkle to the story as I now had a decision to make due to an incident involving this Jonathan character…
A couple of weeks previous Johnathan made another effort to break into my circle of friends, this time he relentlessly followed me and Paul around the schoolyard on our bikes but we were experts at ignoring annoying people. Just as we were passing the school building Jonathan yelled at us that he had something for us to see and we noticed he was standing on his bike seat peering into a window. We just sat from a distance not wanting to indulge him when the front door of the school flung open with the Headmaster appearing, yelling something. We did not stick around to find out what and got the heck out of there, not sure if we had been recognized. The next day there was an assembly and it was announced that the other two children who were caught last evening looking into the window of the Parental Sex Education screening would need to go to the Headmaster’s office afterwards, “You know who you are”, c’mon really? Sex Ed? Well this told us that they did not actually know, so Paul and I headed back to class. Naturally, 10 minutes later there was a knock at the door and we were summoned, and to nobody’s surprise there was Jonathan already waiting. We were tattled on, and worse was that we didn’t actually do it. We stood and took the verbal tongue lashing, and I did get in extra trouble for snickering during it.
Well now you can understand my conundrum at the time, right? Complete the album but have to deal with a sworn enemy, or wait it out for another suitor. I just couldn’t wait, the early onset OCD took over and the deal was made, kids congregated at the transfer after school, I was content but wanted to punch him in the face. And what was this legendary missing sticker? A South Korean goalkeeper/player double shown here:
And so I had done it. I still have it here in Texas with me and have shown it off at a few indoor games with people mostly laughing at the hairstyles and how old everyone looks for their age, it was a different time for sure. I can’t forget a couple of shout outs from the tournament in general, first the Mexican Wave, which beats the heck out of that vuvuzelas nonsense, and to the debut of my birth country Canada in a World Cup. Check out these stallions:
If you play on any team I am on and want to see more short shorts, mustaches, or bad hair then you just need to ask. And I have to finish with one final mention to my family, thank you for putting up with me singing the theme song at the dinner table every time I was asked how it was going, and yes, I still have it memorized…