Sorted Issue 62
A fantastic edition featuring an interview with Stormzy and Billy the Whizz, plus our great team of columnists. Don’t miss this limited edition magazine.
And Gadgets, Entertainment, Motoring, Movies, Technology
Plus, the greatest team of Christian writers ever assembled.
What To Expect on Mt Elbrus by Filip Kamycki
The Caucasus mountains are climbing skyward in a tectonic crumble between the seas. Among them Elbrus, the highest.
What do you need to know about Elbrus?
• 5,642m tall (18,510ft)
• Located in the western Caucasus – within the geographic Europe
• One of the seven summits (the highest mountains in each continent)
• Our challenge for the week
The taller summit (the one we went to) was first reached in 1874 by Akhia Sottaiev – a guide working for a few Englishmen and a Swiss.
One hundred and forty-three years later, as part of the guide team I found myself among the ranks of Exped Adventure. We were a ten-strong team of varied backgrounds and ages, ready for an attempt for the summit. Of course, there’s much more to be done in order to achieve such a goal and most of the things have been covered in the training day. Typical questions include the effects of altitude, the boots, crampons and the warmth of the kit that you may need.
The answers to most of the questions are “depends”, but kit-wise you can expect to need double boots (our team favoured Spantiks), walking crampons, a reasonably light axe, poles and a variety of warm layers with a mother-of-all down jacket should things start getting dodgy. The altitude had struck each and every one of us in varying amounts but headaches, lack of sleep and incredibly frequent urination were a common theme at ‘base’, at least at the beginning.
The trip started in London where we met the rest of the team and the guides as well as picked up the last pieces of kit in case we didn’t get them before. From then on we enjoyed two flights and one transfer before ending up at the beginning of our Elbrus journey – a village called Cheget.
The next day we headed up onto one of the smaller local peaks, also called Cheget, which boasts a ‘modest’ 3,772m of altitude – here we got to experience the first signs of altitude; the physiological impact was beginning to show, the walk seemed a bit more tiring than expected. The breathing rate increased and the feeling of the heart thumping away became more apparent.
I stopped and looked out. Above, serrated snow-swept crags strained into the rush of clouds. At their base alluvial fans of sediment, snow and rock streaked the mountainside. It was like watching geological time unfolding before your eyes.
Having come back from this little trip we packed the things we would be taking up to the mountain and stowed away the things we would not. The journey up to the ‘Heart of Elbrus’ happened by using the system of ski-lifts through which we had to take up all the supplies we would need for the upcoming days – food, water and the like. This made for quite an interesting exercise of trying to fit as much as possible onto a lift which never stopped moving. One of our team has also picked up a rucksack belonging to a participant from a different group, kindly preventing ‘the walk of shame’ of trying to retrieve a rucksack left at the bottom.
Once that process was complete, we moved our stuff into the accommodation – the ‘Heart of Elbrus’ is essentially a warehouse-style building with shipping containers on the bottom, used as canteens and living quarters at the top. (At the bottom you will also find the biggest source of entertainment; a TV with a ‘classic’ music channel – combined with a rocking chair.)
The living quarters are basic – consisting of bunkbeds and blankets – I would suggest you bring your own sleeping bag and a liner as well as a source of entertainment (such as book or music) to make it a homely experience during the more passive aspects of acclimatisation – my recommendation includes Guy Grieve’s Call of the Wild (Hodder, 2007) and some jazzy music to spice up your evenings.
The quality of the food is good, although the mentality surrounding catering is slightly different to what we are used to in the UK. Being an Eastern European and a vegetarian I seem to have dodged the dishes which raised the most controversy. I found pretty much all of the food absolutely fine and certainly above the standard which would be ‘passable’ in a place with no road access, while my teammates were eying with deep suspicion what looked like a grey wiggly doughnut and turned out to be sheep’s fat wrapped in sheep’s stomach. Vodka washes down most things.
As things go with mountain environments, sometimes you do not have the luxury of enjoying the views and instead have to either focus on a task at hand or use your imagination. However, when the sky is clear everything becomes beautiful.
The acclimatisation process is a tough one, and often the views help to take the edge off. Mark, who was the in charge of the trip, often ensured that what could be perceived as ‘suffer fest’ was actually quite entertaining. Mark used every opportunity to squeeze in a little bit of knowledge into the days, discussing and practising different techniques for navigating in bad weather, ice-axe arrests and even demonstrating different kinds of belays you can make up using snow, ice axes and some rope.
One of the best things noticed by myself and Mark is just how well-jelled the group was – taking a risk of sounding like the most common of clichés, the team became a temporary family which, despite some pretty savage banter at times, took the most care in making sure everybody was all right.
Being up high in this environment is not easy, so the camaraderie and support of the other teammates goes a very long way. It pays to be fit when going for this trip; however, nobody should think that any level of fitness will make it a cruise – the physiological demand of operating at high altitude is rather significant and should not be underestimated; while the way from the hut to top of Elbrus and back is only around 13km, it takes the best part of 12 hours and a significant toll on your body. The challenge is quite respectable but not out of reach for a ‘mortal human being’!
Over and out – until next time!
“I’m afraid I’ve got to tell you something very, very sad. Mum’s not going to be able to get out of here. She’s got cancer again, and this time she isn’t going to get better.’’
Telling his children that their mum was going to die was the hardest thing Rio Ferdinand had ever done in his life.
A major theme in Thinking Out Loud is how all that made Ferdinand one of the best footballers in the world, also made him totally ill-equipped to deal with Rebecca’s death.
The book describes a happy childhood in south London but one where love was always implicit, not explicit. He describes himself as “a mixed-race lad from a … council estate” who one minute was being turned away from West End designer stores and the next was a rising star footballer with his photo all over the papers. He reveals himself as a very private person, not wanting to have a girlfriend because it would involve her knowing his business, and who would dread having to enter a room of strangers.
As a footballer he reveals an obsessive attitude. He describes his reaction to winning the Champions League Final, having a conversation – on the night of the final – with the chairman and Sir Alex Ferguson about which new players would be signed to keep the team winning, adding: “Sir Alex looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind.”
When Manchester United lost a game, Ferdinand would come home and sit on his own watching TV until 4 or 5 a.m. even if he and Rebecca had friends staying and a restaurant booked. After training he slept for two hours to recover, irrespective of whatever might be happening at home. He did not do family social functions during the season, not even Rebecca’s gran’s funeral.
He says that “to the press and the public, Rebecca might have looked like a WAG, but in many ways she was more like a single mum” and “living with me was like living with a new-born baby”.
He explains the implications of fame and fortune – not trusting anyone, not making any real friends since he was a teenager, also wondering if they liked him or just his status. Another of his many poignant one-liners is: “With close family, wealth solves problems. With everyone else, however, it creates complications.”
The obsession is not so much a consequence of being a Premier League footballer as a deliberate chosen strategy, as the following four quotations from the book show:
“You cannot afford to feel ordinary human emotions in case they get in the way of your game. You don’t allow yourself to feel anything that could distract or soften you.”
“There is no place in a Premier League dressing room for sympathy, and any player stupid enough to show vulnerability will pay for it. What his team mates will see is a weak link – a liability – and nobody wants that on their team … Premier League culture is harsh, and unforgiving – and it suited me down to the ground.”
“To be the best, you can’t allow yourself the luxury of normal emotions. You don’t get to become a winner by being an ordinary boy. Most people live their lives with all sorts of competing priorities. Life is a balancing act, I hear people say. But for a footballer there are no dilemmas and there is no balance, because the only criterion for every choice you ever make is: will this make me a better player?”
Rebecca’s death is described brutally and with raw emotion. He describes taking the children to Rebecca’s grave the Christmas Day after she died, to wish mum a Happy Christmas. The phrase: “No child should have to be in a cemetery on Christmas Day” tears at your heart, as does one of the children asking who invented cancer and why does it exist.
Rio’s first attempts to come to terms with “washing-machines, tumble-driers, dishwashers, the number for the guy who services the boiler, the name of the house insurance company” are described with humour, as is his difficulty in dealing with invitations for one of his children to come to play or requests for him to have another child to his home, when he thought he was just going to pick up the kids.
Rio the footballer shuts out all distractions. At first, Rebecca’s illness was a distraction. Rio the footballer sees problems as challenges to be overcome. He had been trained not to allow negative thoughts any space in his life. Cancer was an opponent to be beaten – like Arsenal or Liverpool. As a result he struggled to accept the seriousness of Rebecca’s illness.
He writes of the humbling experience of being one of the best in the world at his job but a total amateur in his own house, of realising that “the tools I had learned to use as a footballer were the last thing my children needed from their dad when tragedy struck”. He writes: “As a footballer I had been equal to anything, and always known what to do. For the first time in my life, I was lost ... I had always thought of myself as someone who had the steel to step up to a challenge; who always confronted the big moments squarely, who did not lose his nerve. But nothing in my life had prepared me for this.” He felt clueless to console his grieving children.
The biggest struggle for him was that Rebecca had sacrificed her life to make him successful. When his career ended they would have a more balanced lifestyle with him no longer demanding all the time. The tragedy he refers to several times is that his chance to pay her back and give her her time never came.
There is a poignant scene when he describes sitting at Rebecca’s deathbed: “I come from a Christian family but watching Rebecca lie there in that hospital bed I found myself questioning God. All these people believe in Him – and He allows this to happen? How is that possible? I found it very hard to believe in a God who was supposed to be all powerful, knew this was happening but chose to do nothing to help.”
As the painful experience began to change him, he was determined to help others deal with their grief. This book and a TV documentary are part of that process.
‘It was collectable in the ’80s’ by Greg Lansdowne
“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.” So said French philosopher and sometime goalkeeper, Albert Camus.
I understand where he is coming from but I would add on the word “stickers” to the end.
It has been my long-held belief that the way you collect football stickers as a child goes a long way to defining your adulthood.
Me? I collected every football sticker album going throughout the ’80s (and a fair few that weren’t about football).
Never completed an album. Rarely even got close.
And so it transpired that my later life has seen me flit from project to project without ever quite managing to perfect the art of focusing on one task at a time.
There are many other ‘types’ of football sticker collectors, among them the ‘High Achievers’ who are determined to finish their album before anyone else has even had a chance to peel off their first backing.
Then there are others who can’t resist ‘Doing a deal’, such as BBC TV’s Apprentice 2015 winner Joseph Valente, whose first business transactions came as a seven-year-old when he would drive a hard bargain for those desperate to pick up that elusive shiny to finish their Merlin sticker album.
The story of football sticker collecting in the UK is that of a cut-throat industry… both in the playground and the board room.
Still going strong
January 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of Panini’s first UK-domestic football sticker album: ‘Football 78’ – given away free with Shoot! magazine a few weeks after Star Wars had been released in the UK… and just a couple of weeks before Grange Hill opened its school gates for the first time on BBC TV.
What a time to be growing up!
Collectable cards (initially given away with packets of cigarettes and then packaged up with a stick of gum) had been the main currency for youngsters up until the late 1960s, at which time picture stamps came along.
It was the introduction of a colourful album in which to house your collection of ‘The Wonderful World of Soccer Stars’ images, produced by FKS, that caught the imagination of adolescent football fans.
At this stage, however, a painstaking effort was required to glue each one into the album, which must have required the patience of a saint. A time-saving alternative was being pioneered elsewhere in Europe but the FKS picture stamps ruled the roost over here throughout most of the ’70s.
Panini’s ‘Football 78’ album then blew the opposition out of the water.
Not only could your glue pot now be saved for art homework, thanks to Panini’s self-adhesive stickers, but they also produced shiny foil club badges that became much coveted.
Panini were also in the process of striking up deals with the football leagues and Professional Footballers’ Associations in England and Scotland, which gave them access to all official branding as well as the ability to photograph each squad in the latest club strips at the start of the season (without the technology of today it meant the album could not come out until halfway through the season but collectors felt it was worth the wait).
That is not to say ‘Football 78’ didn’t have its flaws but it was clear this was a step-up from any rival effort.
Although the Panini name had already been famous in its Italian homeland – and elsewhere in Europe – for many years, EU trading laws meant they couldn’t enter the UK market until the late ’70s (prior to that they had been producing the cards/stickers for London-based company Top Sellers, who brought out English league sticker albums between 1972 and 1977 alongside their popular range of horror magazines).
Benito and Giuseppe started their business as a Modena news-stand in the early ’50s before setting up the Panini Brothers Newspaper Distribution Office in 1954. By 1960, as one of their many ventures, they were selling a range of figurines (stickers attached with glue) depicting images of plants and flowers, shifting 3 million packets of two stickers for ten lire each.
A year later, they brought out their first Calciatori/Football Players Collection… and the rest was history. Younger brothers Franco and Umberto joined the business to lend their own expertise so that once the local market was cornered, world collectables domination was sought.
The Panini brand name had begun to enter the UK psyche via their 1970 and 1974 World Cup albums but the first of those collections, in particular, had limited distribution compared to FKS while the latter suffered from a lack of English presence in the finals… though it probably boosted sales in Scotland!
Having tested the water under the Top Sellers brand and ‘Euro Football’ in 1977, giving away their first domestic album free with Shoot! was a masterstroke as the popular magazine was selling hundreds of thousands of issues a week at the time.
To strike up a deal, Panini lavishly wined and dined a Shoot! task force in order to convince them of their credibility. A few years later, once the appeal of Panini had been established, it was Shoot! who would have to vie with rival publication Match Weekly to continue the relationship. Panini albums were now selling copies of Shoot! rather than the other way round.
Distribution of the stickers would also prove key – once you have the album the collector needs to know where to get a ready stock to fuel his/her habit – so WHSmith set up a specific Panini arm to cope with the phenomenon.
More than 80 million packets of ‘Football 78’ stickers were sold and the die was cast.
Rivals attempted to keep up but without official backing the contrast became increasingly stark (see the latter FKS albums including, for instance, their attempts at ‘alternative’ club badges in ‘Soccer 81’).
With all-comers swatted away unceremoniously, Panini had a clear field in which to purvey their collectables by the mid-80s.
From the moment the latest album was extricated from its protective wrapping in Shoot!, Panini football stickers would become the focal point of school life for a couple of months a year (even more during a World Cup season).
Every era has its school crazes but for one to endure so long is testament to Panini’s – then Merlin’s in the ’90s – slick operations.
It is possible to make a lot of money out of football stickers but many companies have shown how it is equally possible to quickly go bust!
Although the mistakes from the pretenders now generate a rustic charm, when you were an ’80s collector you wanted an album to be just right (the correct kits, the authentic club badges, the formulaic head and shoulder photos and so on).
You could also rely on experimental features within each Panini album (such as cartoon images depicting club nicknames or a ‘Laws of the Game’ section) as well as even dabbling with full-length player shots in ‘Football 83’.
With anything so popular, however, there would always be dissenters.
Inevitably, the media climbed upon the bandwagon when a few disgruntled parents complained about how much money their offspring were expecting them to fork out to satiate voracious collecting appetites.
Add to the mix the long-touted conspiracy theory of some stickers being printed in smaller numbers to make it harder to finish the album.
Panini were adamant all stickers were, and still are, printed in equal numbers. If certain stickers appeared to be scarce it was because when doubles of those were obtained they rarely went into the doubles/swaps piles of collectors. Hence, during the ’80s, the high volume of Liverpool supporters throughout England meant Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish were more as often to be seen plastered on school folders and bedroom walls as stuck in Panini albums.
Club/national badges (predominantly known as ‘foils’ in the ’80s but now commonly termed ‘shinies’) were, and still are, hot currency due to their perceived value (that ‘value’ being their aesthetic appeal as they do, after all, only represent one sticker in the album, just like any other).
Such was the appeal of Panini by the middle of the ’80s that Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell waged a fierce battle to obtain the rights to promote the stickers in their respective red tops.
The Mirror won out initially before Murdoch (or, specifically, Kelvin MacKenzie) made Panini a deal they couldn’t refuse in 1986.
Panini’s first 100-million packet seller came the following year with ‘Football 87’ and that success followed again for ‘Football 88’, only for that album to signal the beginning of the end of its domestic reign in the UK.
Maxwell wouldn’t let his defeat to The Sun lie so, after his first reaction was to bring out rival Daily Mirror sticker albums in 1986-87 and 1987-88, he went one step further in buying out the Panini family (a foolproof way to ensure The Mirror were able to win back their syndication deal with the Modena-based company!).
From there, the story took some sinister turns as newly formed rival Merlin (set up by former Panini employees) were presented with some huge, dubious, obstacles pitched up by Maxwell in their attempts to compete in the collectables industry.
Merlin’s tale ended happily even if Maxwell’s didn’t but, now back in Italian hands after several different owners, Panini are also back at the top of their game.
The 2014 Panini World Cup album was their best-selling ever and the 2018 version is set to eclipse even that success, helped by expanding their markets still further.
This return to former glories has been fuelled by the hunger of adults keen to revive memories of a much-loved childhood pastime.
Even I have recently managed to change the habit of a lifetime by completing an album or two.
Another Panini life-lesson in a nutshell: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
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