Bless you, Panini, but you really screwed up some of these Women’s World Cup stickers

We all do it. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to get a project done the right way, so we take a shortcut and hope it all works out in the end. Sometimes it works because we buried the shortcut deep enough that the surface mechanism is still fine. Sometimes you paste Amy Rodriguez’s head on Hope Solo’s body.

Panini, enablers of completionist fetishists everywhere, originally had no plans to do a line of stickers for the Women’s World Cup. After a deluge of @s on twitter and other social media platforms, they changed their minds and did up an album with collections for all 24 teams (although the rosters are neither full nor wholly accurate, but back to this in a minute).

On its surface it looks pretty good. There are neat holographic stickers for federation crests and a chart in the back to keep track of how everyone does. Each country gets boxes where you can mark down their scores from group and a box showing how the country qualified for the tournament.The booklet is pretty good quality for being a last-minute affair.

But look a little closer. Amy Rodriguez sure does look swole. Hey, good for you A-Rod! Getting nice and strong before the World Cup is admirable. You look as broad-shouldered as Hope Solo now. In fact, almost exactly as broad-shouldered. Oh, your face has been pasted onto her body.

And Heather O’Reilly’s face has been pasted onto Megan Rapinoe’s body. And Kelley O’Hara’s face has been pasted onto Lauren Holiday’s body:

Yeah, that’s about more in line with my expectations.

Thumbing through the other teams, you quickly learn what to look for: the face is lit wrong, doesn’t quite line up with the neck, looks a little too sharply cut out against the background. Sometimes the shadows on the neck haven’t been altered correctly. Sometimes the head is too big or too small for the body. It doesn’t take CSI levels of zoom and enhance to spot these things. I spotted a cut-and-paste job in Nigeria’s section. China PR seems to have one body for at least seven different faces:

panini china pr

It could be other problems, but despite ordering 44 packets of seven cards each, I ended up with duplicates of the entire Swiss national team and hardly any of other nations. There could be plenty more head/body transplant abominations out there. (Roughly 728 Swiss stickers and not one Homare Sawa or Christine Sinclair? What gives, Panini? I am so frustrated that I am in fact going to order more stickers from you.)

Some teams just had their team headshots used for the stickers, and they turned out nicely. But the United States is usually pretty on top of having player headshots available, so why was it necessary to find photos of them from a game? Did other teams have headshots, but not headshots of all the expected World Cup players? Did something go screwy with the licensing, giving them access to only certain sets of photos?

Assuming licensing was the issue but they still had to make all the stickers look like part of a set, what happened, Panini art department? They look like the fake photos the props department mock up when a TV show needs an alibi and has to prove they were on vacation in Europe. Heather O’Reilly’s flattened, lightless stare seems to say, “Can you believe this shit?”

Then there’s the oops, you’re not actually rostered cards. To be fair, Panini could hardly have predicted Australia would leave Kate Gill off their World Cup roster; so that one’s on you, Australia. And it’s really not fair to expect them to magically know exactly who is going to be on every World Cup roster when they have to print these things far in advance of the final roster deadline. They did their best, guessing who’d be on which roster, and it seems like they guessed right for the most part.

In the end, perhaps that’s enough for this tournament. Panini wasn’t planning on doing this at all in the first place. It’s nice to see the same collector-mania that surrounds men’s sports starting to attach to women’s soccer. It’s the kind of passionate nerdery that drives someone to scour conventions and auction sites and buried-on-the-fifth-page-of-google-results forums for the one thing that will complete their collection, because they’ve found something that completes them. Women’s soccer needs that passion, some teams more than others. Some federations need to catch up to the notion that a team needs proper resources in order to play, let alone succeed.

Meanwhile, hopefully Panini is making money hand over fist; money talks, and enough money says “Don’t wait until the last minute in 2019.”

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