Europa 80 was the first Panini sticker collection I can remember owning. I still have it in my possession - in fact of all my old sticker albums it's probably my most prized possession. To my astonishment, I recently discovered I'd filled 241 of the 262 spaces in the album. 'Astonishment' in that I don't remember getting so many of the stickers, plus I was only eight years old at the time and shudder at the thought of how much money my parents must have given me for the stickers. Still, there it is: a gallant effort in trying to complete my first Panini album.
Panini's first 'Euro' sticker collection coincided with UEFA's first proper European Championship. By 'proper', I mean one in which there were two groups of four competing teams playing all their games in one country. Between 1960 and 1976, the finals of the competition consisted of two semi finals and a final hosted by one nation. Hardly the sort of premise around which to base an entire sticker collection.
This was to be England's first appearance in a major tournament since Gerd Muller hooked West Germany's third quarter-final goal past Peter Bonetti in the 1970 World Cup. Ron Greenwood's side headed off to Turin with a side full of emerging talent including Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence and Trevor Brooking. That squad, along with those of the other competing nations, were immortalised by Panini in their inaugural Euro sticker album and a fine job they made of it too.
The Front Cover
Almost square in nature and distinctively black, it featured a big action photo of Italy's Franco Causio on the ball, closely watched by Dutch defender Piet Wildschut. The album title appeared in geometric cut-out letters above a band of flags representing the competing nations and the Europa 80 official emblem in the bottom corner.
Inside Front Cover
The inside Front Cover gave details of the qualifying round results and final standings, plus the classic Panini 'List and abbreviations of the nations'. Panini sticker collectors will be familiar with this as it cropped up in all their international football albums and provided a fascinating insight into European dialects. Even to this day, whenever I hear the quiz question "Which country is sometimes known by its Latin name of Helvetia?" I can instinctively and immediately answer "Switzerland" purely because of Panini's ever-helpful abbreviation list.
Of particular note is the appearance of several countries that weren't officially recognised at the time, such as Bohemia, Estonia, Croatia and Slovakia. Not sure if it was incredibly foresight of what was to come a decade later or recognition of what had gone before some forty or more years previous.
The album got off to a rip-roaring start with a fabulous map of Europe on page 1 showing where all the competing nations were located. Made up of nine stickers in a 3 x 3 grid, the completed picture was a work of art in itself.
Pages 2 and 3 were devoted to a 'European Championship Roll of Honour.' This comprised of a potted history of all the Euro tournaments up to that point, each one represented by a star player sticker and another of the winning team. All the images were in black and white.
Page 4 featured five stickers, each one relating to an important aspect of the 1980 European Championships. They depicted in turn UEFA President Artemio Franchi, the official tournament emblem (a stylised football flower), the official mascot (a wooden Pinocchio toy holding a football and wearing a paper hat), the Henri Delaunay Cup and a map of Italy showing the match locations. Alongside these was the tournament programme - a place where you could fill in the results of each match as they took place.
Page 5 provided spaces for eight stickers, specifically a city and stadia picture for each of the four venues, and these were always a great way of building up an image in your mind of what the host country would actually be like to visit in real life. Among these, the beautiful coastal view of Naples and the historic splendour of Milan Cathedral particularly stood out.
It wasn't the first time Panini had done this (as we'll prove in some of our upcoming articles) and if nothing else it made real the dreams of those football fans that never thought they'd see the day when the Welsh national team featured in a Panini sticker book.
The higher profile teams (West Germany, Netherlands, England and Italy) were set out on three pages of the Europa 80 album. On these were 20 spaces for players, one for a gold foil badge and two making up a double-sized team picture. The rest (Czechoslovakia, Greece, Belgium and Spain) had two pages featuring a badge, a two-part team picture and 14 players.
The sticker spaces were decorated with a pale green surround that contained hand-drawn images of players in goalkeeping, dribbling, passing and shooting poses. Sadly for me, my eight-year-old self coloured these in with felt-tip pens, but hey - how was I to know I'd be able to sell the album on the internet for a vast cost more than 30 years later?
The Back Cover
All black once again, save for a big picture of the Europa 80 mascot in the middle and the usual array of album prices as they were across Europe at the time (15p in Great Britain's case).