Every big tournament inspires a passion for collecting football stickers and cards featuring portraits of every player and coach in the participating teams. The tradition was made famous in Europe with the sticker album that the Panini brothers from Italy started in 1961 with collections for Italian league fans, before expanding into a global phenomenon.
'A symbiosis of football culture and art'
But for the last 10 years, there has been a more artistic alternative for collectors that was created by Tschutti Heftli, a Swiss football magazine from Lucerne — the name refers to "tschuute," the Swiss-German word for football.
It was during the 2008 European Championships that the magazine released its first scrapbook in which quirky player portraits from the participating teams could be glued.
These were small works of art, drawings, caricatures and illustrations by artists as varied and different as the participating countries in the tournaments.
"With the images we create a symbiosis of football culture and art, giving collectors not only an overview of the participating teams and players, but also of different styles of contemporary portrait illustration," said Silvan Glanzmann, the founder of Tschutti Heftli.
In 2012, 2 million stickers were released for the Euro finals, and twice that number for the same competition in 2016. For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, an international artist competition was held to pick 32 artists to design each the 32 national teams. The 2018 World Cup will follow the same format, and the circulation is again set to rise significantly.
Passion over profit
The inspiration for the Tschutti Heftli football stickers came through a belief that the traditional Panini footballer portraits were staid and commercial. Something special had to be done, said Glanzmann: "We are not concerned with profit, we want to counteract the increasing commercialization of football and bring sport closer to passion and culture."
The magazine works with the Swiss offshoot of the aid organization Terre des Hommes, giving 9 cents per sold sticker package to the NGO that distributes the money to aid projects all over the world. The focus this time is on Brazil, where hundreds of families were forcibly relocated during the 2014 World Cup.
The project did not initially solicit well-known artists but instead began a public competition in which any graphic artist, cartoonist, designer or illustrator could participate by completing a portrait of Argentinian football god Diego Maradona.
The 32 artists for this World Cup edition were selected from 500 submissions. Among them is the Cologne graphic designer Ronny Heimann, whose job is to draw the German team.
Having been selected for drawing Maradona in a classic pose, his hands folded onto his chest in prayer (see top picture), Heimann has utilized the style for his German player portraits. The various hand movements mean the team members will seem to be communicating when placed together in the scrapbook.
Each page in the Tschutti Heftli booklet has a special appearance that no one who with a serious collection would leave incomplete. And so among the growing number Tschutti collectors acros diverse age groups, many are exchanging stickers online, privately, or at official exchange and sales offices.
These include Sebastian from Bonn who is in his mid-30s and just bought ten packets of ten stickers in a local bookstore. He has been collecting with his wife for four years. "Firstly, you have the positive feeling that you are doing something good; and secondly, there are always new artists in each issue, new types of design," he said.
The couple are still missing about 200 pictures to complete the album which will have costed between €100 and €150 euros when done — much less than a complete Panini album that could cost up to €800.
The scrapbook for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has 84 pages and can accommodate 522 stickers, which is about 16 players, staff and even coats of arms for each team.
Many collectors will be trying to fill their Tschutti Heftli booklet before the tournament kicks off on June 14 with the match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.