Monday, May 23, 2016

Panini Sticker Set is Best Way to Get Ready for Copa America

I was checking out at Walgreens the other day and I spotted the Panini Copa America booklet and box of sticker packs right close to the checkout counter. I was stunned. I couldn't pass it up. I bought the booklet for seven dollars and 10 packs for one dollar each.

Panini is an Italian card company and most of the language on the packs and booklet are printed in Spanish first. Of course, on the internet, you can get a box of stickers delivered to your house in a matter of a few days and put a whole set together for a lower price. But, I've decided to buy a few packs every now and then and let the card collecting and anticipation for the tournament build up together.

I enjoy rooting for the Ecuadorian National team more than any other soccer team (I have residence there because my wife is Ecuadorian). Overall, rooting for Ecuador hasn't been a letdown at all, in fact, it has become increasingly exciting through the years. Ecuador has been to three of the last four World Cups. It has never won the Copa America, which makes this year even more special, as they have a serious chance of making a run for the title. Currently, Ecuador sits at the top of the South American World Cup qualifying table.

As I live in South Texas, I will probably cross the border to watch a Mexico match at a sports bar. It's fun to watch Mexico play in Mexico, even if it is only Tv. There are plenty of players to support from Mexico that play beautifully, like Oribe Peralta, Andres Guardado and Chicharito (Javier Hernandez). I've gotten used to these players and I root for them. I'll miss Giovanni dos Santos, who declined to take an invitation to play.

Then, of course, there is the U.S., my home country, which I don't expect much from, but I will be following closely. This could be Clint Dempsey's last big hurrah and I expect a few goals and assists from him. Argentina brings Messi and Brazil brings all their stars except Neymar. Also, Luis Suarez, who is hurt now, may play if Uruguay advances.

There are enough players and interesting teams to watch for, like Columbia with James Rodriguez, that this tournament promises to be outstanding and unique. It means more now because we Americans understand soccer more than ever before and we understand the significance of this tournament. Whoever wins is the champion of the Americas.

And, I'm along for the ride with my stickers. I'm learning about all the clubs that each player from all the different national teams are playing for, as they are listed on each player's sticker. The stickers are mostly head shots, but there are national team foil stickers, team photo stickers, some player action stickers and historical stickers from past Copa Americas.

Altogether, there are more than 400 stickers to collect, which I estimate to take a month or so to finish. With seven stickers per pack, I'll be spending a pretty penny. But as the Copa America Final approaches, I'll be in the driver's seat with my completed Copa Centenario Panini sticker book.

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