Saturday, 18 May 2013

Panini: Euro Football 79

My failing memory doesn't recall Panini's Euro Football 79 being on sale in the UK when I was a kid. If that's the case, it's an almighty shame because this, for me, was one of the best Panini sticker collections ever made.

It's not just the variety and quality of the stickers inside the album that elevate it to such a celebrated plain, but the simplicity and logic of its structure. In basic terms, the album was split into three parts, one for each of the European club competitions that existed back then. Within each of those parts were five sub-sections containing a Roll of Honour, pictures from the previous season's Final, the fixtures for the upcoming season (1978/79), the teams involved in them and the players to look out for. Nothing more, nothing less... and it was all the better for it.

Sadly there were no shiny foil stickers in this collection, but there were special trophy stickers to obtain, and these belonged on each of the three Roll of Honour pages. Though the white background lacked that unique glittery pizazz seen in other collections, the trophy stickers were still a smart way of heading up the lists of the previous Finals.

The 'Trophy' pages

Looking at the 'European Cup' section, we're first treated to a three-page pictorial review of the 1977/78 Final at Wembley between Liverpool and Club Brugge. Here it seems Panini's designers really allowed themselves the indulgence of creating a mini photo album. Thirteen pictures showing The Reds' victorious night were there to be formed from one, two or four stickers in what must be the most ambitious attempt at creating a set-piece display Panini had ever made up to that point. And there was one of these photo journals for each of the three European Finals in the album.

European Cup Final 1977/78

European Cup-Winners' Cup
Winners, Anderlecht
Similarly, each of the three sections had a fixture chart that the young sticker collector could fill in whenever a round of matches was played. A simple layout featuring a four-part picture of the current holders at the top of the page ensured an attractive item that kids would return to time and again.

But if it was team pictures that the album's owner was really after, they weren't to be disappointed. A comprehensive selection of all the teams taking part in Europe's top competitions in 1978/79 provided a whole raft of images to collect, and again they were available as one-, two- or four-part pictures.

European Cup teams: Real Madrid, Rangers, et al.

And what wonderful pictures they are. The colours really come shining through and the players you find yourself spotting - some of them stars from the World Cup - provide a great deal of pleasure throughout.

European Cup-Winners' Cup teams: Ipswich, Barcelona et al.

Similarly we get ample opportunity to marvel at the wide range of competing teams from across Europe, many of whom were so obscure that you wouldn't have even heard of them as a pre-teen football fan back then. To actually discover teams from as far afield as Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg and Bulgaria was therefore a revelation and one not generally derived from Panini's domestic sticker collections.

UEFA Cup teams: Athletic Bilbao, Nantes et al.

Euro Football 79 also drilled down to player level too, and here we get to see pages with a more familiar look and feel. Head shots of 120 footballers across all three European competitions were featured throughout the album, and again a wide range of countries and clubs made the overall piece more interesting.

European Cup players

In the European Cup section, Liverpool feature prominently through four players (Emlyn Hughes, Kenny Dalglish, Ray Clemence and Graeme Souness) as do Juventus, but there are familiar faces on show throughout including Uli Stielike, Rene Van De Kerkhof and Nottingham Forest's Tony Woodcock.

European Cup-Winners' Cup players

The Cup-Winners' Cup section had more masters of Total Football in the shape of Anderlecht's Ron Rensenbrink and Arie Haan and Barcelona's Johan Neeskens. A pre-breakthrough Michel Platini could also be found along with the twin Ipswich talents of Mick Mills and Paul Mariner.

UEFA Cup players

As for the UEFA Cup, here's where we get the greatest combination of world stars and common Football League luminaries. Rubbing shoulders with Mario Kempes (Valencia), Paolo Rossi (Vicenza) and Ruud Krol (Ajax) you'll just as easily find Bob Latchford (Everton), Mick Channon (Man City) and Cyrille Regis (West Bromwich Albion). The UEFA Cup was surely a very strange battlefield back in 1978...

Frankly I could go on forever talking about the charm of this sticker album, but I won't - even though I haven't yet mentioned the delightful squiggly pen-and-ink illustrations on many of the pages. Instead I'll wrap up by saying that when this sticker album appears in complete form on eBay, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of £100 for it, and rightly so in my opinion. As a snapshot of European football as it was back in the late-1970s, it's a real thing of beauty and certainly a joy forever.


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