And like those fish battling up stream it sparks something deep inside many men – and yes, it is largely men.
It’s a deep seated yearning to hunt and gather Honduras midfielders. Then stick them into a book.
It’s a desire to tell the world: “Switzerland? Yes, I have the complete team. Even their star midfielder Hakan Yakan.”
What are Panini stickers? They’re adhesive pictures of footballers. But they’re far more than that.
Growing up in the 1980s Panini stickers were the social media of their day.
Armed with a pile of doubles – or swaps – children would show them to other fellow collectors. The ‘got, got, need, NEED!’ commentary gave a status update.
They brought people together. They still do.
Here are some tales of the power of Panini.
1 My brother Paul’s best present
Somewhere on my brother Paul’s book shelf is a tattered Europa 80 Panini sticker book from the European Championships. It cost thirty quid on ebay.
Paul is a reserved man. He’s not given to flights of fancy. The album was the only present I’ve ever given that has caused him to leap from his chair and smile as broad as Marco Tardelli.
It was my way of punching him on the shoulder and saying: ‘Good on you, brother.’
Why? Because it was the first sticker collection we both collected. Not together, of course, but as sibling rivals in a sticker arms race.
We would use a Subbutteo pitch to play tournaments with the stickers as players.
Our mum often asked us why we didn’t join forces and collect them together. Pah! What did she know?
She didn’t understand the thrill of opening a packet of stickers to find Karl Heinz Rumminigge or the Chile foil badge.
2 Panini West Midlands swaps Facebook
It’s a case of a digital native using the platform her knows to create something using social media to bring people together. As the Facebook group says ‘bringing the playground to Facebook.’
3 It costs £412 to collect a sticker album
Si Whitehouse is good at maths. He’s good at lots of things, actually. He worked out how much it would cost to collect a World Cup 2010 sticker album. It’s more than £400.
I’m not sure whether I should be amazed or frightened at the sums of money involved in collecting these things. You’d get better value for money from a Build HMS Victory in 100 easy to follow steps.
But you know what? I’m still collecting them.
4 Panini as Flickr set
Here he has captured brilliantly the 18-step process from buying, through anticipation, to sticking, to stocking the swaps pile.
5 Who is Senor Panini?
They are from Modena. They started in 1960. Two years later they were selling 29 million ‘units’. Their first World Cup collection was 1970. Thank you, Wikipedia.