Growing up in Italy, I collected and traded soccer stickers with friends at school. Like American kids with baseball cards, we used the stickers as our currency. Imagine my surprise and delight when, a few weeks ago, I discovered that a World Cup sticker album was on sale at stores right here in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
These colorful portraits of the 32 World Cup squads, each player's portrait captioned with biographical data, have become part of our family's World Cup preparations. My wife and I even rely on them to get the girls to do their daily chores.
On the opening day of the World Cup, we took out the sticker albums and the girls ripped open a couple of packs hoping to find that elusive Slovakian player with the unpronounceable last name, or the glossy German national team emblem.
Sophie and Anna have learned a few names and interesting facts about many of the World Cup players. For example, Kaka's real name is Ricardo Izecson Dos Santos Leite; Per Mertesacker is 198cm tall (6 feet 6 inches); and Durban's Mabhida Stadium has a capacity of 69,957.
And it's not just a kid thing. When a sociologist friend of mine in London was found pouring over the same sticker packets and album, his wife said, "When you are with your stickers you are like an 8-year old boy."
It's a beautiful thing. Go Bafana Bafana!
Peter Alegi is a Fulbright Scholar at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He teaches African history at Michigan State University and authored African Soccerscapes: How A Continent Changed The World's Game.