Sunday, 14 April 2013

Merlin World Cup 90 Sticker Collection

As we've already seen, I'm not averse to treading a non-Panini sticker book path and here again, we take a look at someone other than the mighty P attempting a sticker collection of their own.

This time it's Merlin, who had only come into existence the year before, with only their 2nd attempt - the first was Team 90, which I'll review another time. While Team 90 covered the domestic league, for their second outing, they went international with their first World Cup collection.

As with Team 90, which featured flip-book style goal animations on the corners of each page, 'The World Cup Sticker Collection - Italia 90' featured its own little extra hook to reel you in. This idea was fully integrated not only with the album, but the stickers themselves.

So long as the value of...ah whatever!
The gimmick, for that's what it was, known as 'Merlin's World Super League Soccer Game', or MWSLSG for short, was a full on game you and your friends could play, complete with game board (centre pages pull-out) and money a la Monopoly.

The inside cover details the (very lengthy) rules, which basically amount know what, I've tried to get the gist of the thing, but trying to wade through that lot is like slow death.

Money, Money, Money!
A neat feature and one that shows the thought that went into the album, is the sticker backs. Rather than being the usual disposable sheets that Panini would have you throw in the bin, Merlin had the clever idea of using them as extra currency for the MWSLSG game, so each sticker back is a note of a certain denomination...I'd like to be able to confirm that this matched the player value of the sticker, but alas, I don't have any unused stickers to check and I also can't remember.

Bored game?

£3m? That's a lot of crisps Mr. L!
One thing I love about the game rules is the little disclaimer at the end, which informs us that the value shown against each player is ONLY for the purposes of MWSLSG and is in no way intended to represent the true value of the player in any real currency... Just as well as Mr. Lineker would appear to be rather overvalued given his then-recent £1.2m transfer from Barcelona to Spurs.

Anyway, enough of the sideline, let's get down to business - the business of stickerage!

The 1st page in the book shows the venues that were to be used for Italia 90, many of them still under construction at the time the photos were taken. Genoa, built in 2 halves as it was, looks like some five-a-side ground as one half was demolished and the angle of the shot occludes any of the completed side.

The first sticker in the book is reserved for...a sticker! Despite having 2 albums, neither of them has the first sticker in, though I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume it's the World Cup trophy...anyone that can confirm this for me, I'd be very grateful.

The following pages detail the history of the World Cup from 1930-1986, each one granted a neat little summary of the tournament and a sticker featuring a photo of the winning team.

While this sort of thing is standard fare in World Cup albums, the execution from Merlin is first class and is so much more than the usual "Team Photo + Final Result" that goes in these things.

After the history, comes the present and so we move into the team pages. First up we find the teams from Group A, starting with England...wait a minute, they weren't in Group A...of course, this album isn't being produced for a worldwide audience so there's no need to do things in the official tournament order. As it is, the 3 home teams are included - we're including Eire here because...well they were all English anyway ;-)

There's the usual team shot and foil badge, though they've opted to only show the nation's flags, possibly down to the copyright issues that now blight all Panini albums. Alongside the stickers, there's also the familiar 'Past Performances' and 'How They Qualified' sections showing the results from previous world cups and the current tournament's qualification scores.

It's also here we first properly appreciate the shape of the stickers. While Panini has their standard portrait / landscape format, while also utilising the not-always-successful multi-sticker picture, here, Merlin have opted for one format only - a surprisingly prescient widescreen style.

While this lends itself rather well to team photos, as demonstrated here by Scotland (in a World Cup? I know!), it naturally doesn't quite work so well for player head shots. But wait, what's that there on the right of the players' mug-shots? Why it's all the info you need to play MWSLSG! Genius!

Camer-who? Nah, they'll do nothing...
The rest of the teams are then shown in alphabetical order, barring what were obviously deemed the lesser nations, who only get a foil and team sticker. There's only 6 teams given this treatment and ironically, given the impact they had at Italia 90, the first of these is Cameroon! The others are pretty much fair play, consisting of USA, Costa Rica, UAE, South Korea and Egypt.

Looking through the team stickers, it's obvious this album suffers from the same problem that all non-Panini ones seem to...the player shots are not staged photos and so we're treated to a variety of backgrounds and kits. While this isn't a huge issue, it just adds to that slightly cheaper feel, like getting your favourite band's calendar from a market stall rather than an established retailer.

The final page of the album is the standard 'How To Complete' your collection. Interestingly, unlike the usual Panini 50 stickers, here, you can only order up to 30 and no more than 5 of those can be foil ones. Each sticker is a mere 4p and they don't even charge for postage! Just do NOT send stamps or cash!

Bum bags and turquoise...Hello The 90s!
The back cover is a huge advert featuring "Wizard Offers From Merlin" (see what they did there?), which is actually a bunch of stuff from Quaser, a sports company once fronted by Mr Lineker. Apart from some boots and trainers, the remaining items for sale take me right back to my school days. Bum bags, giant "sac" bags (coffin bags as my house-head used to call them) and pencil case sized mini replicas of them.

I had a 'Head' one of the latter and usually a Puma one of the midi size for my school bag. They lasted barely a term, but they were freaking awesome! I always wanted an electric blue one with green piping, but they weren't cheap, unlike the navy n red one you could get from Argos. Er...where was I?

Finally, from the back cover shot, you can see the album cost 40p...though mine was free with the Sunday Post newspaper and I can still remember it making the perfect start to my easter hol as it flopped through the door on the first day. Ah memories!


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