We’re not Brazil, but the Northern Ireland football team has definitely arrived among the world’s elite with the first ever sticker book dedicated to Michael O’Neill’s record breakers.
Having written their names in the football history books by qualifying for next year’s European Championships in France, it’s only fitting that the class of 2016 should be immortalised with their own Panini collection to commemorate the achievement.
Not since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico have local fans had the opportunity to join in the sticker swapping fun centred around their international heroes. Back then, the perennial over-achievers of the 80s - including Pat Jennings, Norman Whiteside, Mal Donaghy and Gerry Armstrong - were only featured on a page or two in the overall World Cup collection, but this time around a whole 32-page album is available to enthral the Green and White Army.
Launched on Monday, the ‘starter pack’ includes the album and 31 stickers for £2.99. Additional packs of five stickers cost 50p and there are a total of 204 to collect.
Northern Ireland became the first ever fifth seeded team to top a qualifying group when they rounded off a magnificent campaign with a 1-1 draw away to Finland in October.
Panini head of marketing Jess Tadmor said they were delighted to be working with the Irish FA on the launch of the collection. “It’s the perfect accompaniment to an outstanding achievement in the history of sport in Northern Ireland. We’re looking forward to some great marketing activations and reaching out to fans of all ages,” she said.
Oonagh O’Reilly of the Irish FA said: “Northern Ireland fans who grew up in the 1980s will have fond memories of collecting Panini Stickers of their team. Now, 30 years after we last qualified for a major tournament, it is fantastic to be renewing our partnership with a company who have such a long heritage in football.”