I never did get Ndaye Mulamba, Zaire's 9-goal hero of the African Nations Cup some 40 years ago. He was the one blank spot in my otherwise full 1974 World Cup sticker collection. To make matters worse, my doubles pile contained 14 Grzegorz Lato's, England's Polish nemesis. Each time a new packet of stickers was ripped open, I held my breath, hoping upon hope that the Zairian marksman would jump out at me. I even knew his sticker number. Sadly he never did, just a plethora of little fat Poles.
I thought I had eventually laid to rest the ghost of Mulamba, but in 2002, the man came back to haunt me again at the African Festival of football, when a 2 minute silence was held in honour of his passing away. This was a quite stunning tribute to the Congolese veteran, especially given the fact that he was alive and well and living in Cape Town at the time. Ndaye Mulamba, a name I'll take to my own grave.
Nowadays it is much simpler to finish your footy sticker book collection. You can access Panini's website and order your outstanding stickers online, as long as it is less than 100 you require. And then there's always EBay as a top-up alternative. But is that really what it's all about; is it not half the fun of collections, anguishing over yet another packet of swaps? Clicking a mouse to drag and drop a Clint Dempsey cannot possibly be as exciting as sticking your thirty eighth Marouane Fellaini in the office diary.
Now, as a dad of three, I'm once more living out the Full Album Fantasy and it is still as compulsive - and expensive - as ever. Incidentally, if anyone ever finds Ndaye Mulamba down the back of their sofa, (the sticker that is), I have an awful lot of swaps which I would gladly trade.