Filling in one’s Panini World Cup Sticker Album is an essential element in the all-encompassing hype preceding an event where hype is overriding principle. I caught the sticker bug when I lived in Greece in 2002 during the Japan/Korea World Cup. There one could find the cheap packs in every corner shop, next to the cigarettes and gum. In the United States, this frantic pastime is a bit more of a challenge due to nature of our present social networks, but with a little effort and ingenuity it can be accomplished.

1. Get an album:
The first step might be the biggest hurdle, but if you can get to a local Target or Walgreens, this would be preferable to immediately going online. It is important to have the arena in your hands, plus, you should get your first stickers inside (unless someone dastardly swiped them).

2. Buy stickers:
If you can buy a pack or two just to get the initial Willie Wonka-like experience of ripping them open, it should be enough. Then spare yourself added cost and aggravation by buying a couple of 50-pack boxes of sticker packets on eBay from a ‘reputable’ (preferably US or western European-based) seller. There are many and with a little comparison shopping you can get a significant discount/free shipping. Of course, you could buy a complete set, but that’s more expensive, and significantly less ‘fun.’

3. Paste them in the album:
For many people, getting this perfectly neatly is the ultimate orgasm. I don’t think there is a DSM-5 term for this yet. Personally, I think a little sloppiness lends a human touch. For those who can’t abide there is also the next option.

4. Open an account online, create an avatar from a near limitless combination of facial features, FIFA-approved national soccer uniforms and accessories, and work on an online album:
Once you have your ‘real world’ album and stickers, you can sign on to Panini’s Coca-Cola-sponsored Online site. This contains the online album, with five-fewer players per-team but the ability to zoom in their stickers to more easily see their vital details, as well as veterans’ older stickers. Your are allowed to open five free virtual packs a day, with numerous bonuses for completing teams, or playing one of the other games on the site, such as World Cup trivia (which can become an obsession in itself). Codes on the backs of real ‘shiny’ (hologram) stickers also give bonus virtual packs. Also, and perhaps most importantly in the US (where unlike Brazil or Colombia we don’t have many village squares where one can meet with other local collectors to swap real stickers), one can trade virtual stickers with any other site member from around the world, which earns more bonuses and ultimately will be the only practical way to get the album completed on time.

5. Order missing stickers:
I recommend using this option, at least initially, for those stickers one still doesn’t have which are not in the online version of the album. The cost comes out to about double the retail price per sticker, but you are only getting your ‘needs’ met…

6. Decide your endpoint:
If you live in the US and your goal is and absolutely filled real sticker album by the first kick, you will likely have to resort to some sort of online assistance. Just saying. And hopefully it won’t also include debt or mental assistance as well.

7. Watch the World Cup with your album at hand:
This is a great, pundit-free alternative companion to your watching experience, despite the fact that it comes out in March, and in some cases like the United States, a significant amount of the players (and stars like Landon Donovan) aren’t in the final squads.

Catch up on all your Euro soccer needs with FilmOn Football:

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