Patna: India may not have participated in the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup, but one person from the country is making waves in the world of football, albeit through stamps.
He is competing with the best in what he calls `football philately`, the collection and study of postage stamps.
Philatelist Pradip Jain has an exclusive collection of around 1200 postal stamps on football issued by several sporting countries - right from the first stamp on the game to the latest ones.
Among his prized collection are the world`s first postal stamps issued by Uruguay in 1924 to mark its 3-0 victory over Switzerland in 1924 Olympics. These stamps did not have the picture of players, but just football and football field. In 1925, Hungary became the first country to issue the first stamp to depict a footballer in action. It was one of eight stamps issued to raise funds for Hungarian sports clubs. Jain has this one too in his collection, and holds it close to his heart.
"Just 1,17,651 of these stamps were printed in Hungary and they were valid till December 31, 1925. Only 200 tickets of this series are left in the world. I bought it at an exhibition in Germany a few years ago. Its first day cover was also available, but the price was very high and I could not afford it. Now it is impossible to buy it," said Jain.
Jain, who entered the world of philately in 1970 after visiting a stamp exhibition organised by the Department of Post and Telegraph, keeps trotting around the globe in search of postal tickets to keep replenishing his treasure trove.
Though a football lover, Jain said he started focusing on football stamps rather late and the rich collection is a labour of 16 years of "stamp hunt".
Talk to him and he will take you on a voyage, transporting you to the world of soccer stamps in an instant. You will get to see all the postal tickets, miniature sheets, first day covers, including the unique ones like black and white stamps issued by Mexico in 1986, as well as, a round one issued by Austria in 2008.
Among the collection is the block of four stamps issued by Argentina in 1986 having two pictures of Diego Maradona - one running with a ball in his possession, and another showing him lifting the FIFA Cup. "The Argentinean stamps were very difficult to get as all of them vanished within three days. I got them after 10 years of search," adds Jain.
The philatelist exhibited his football stamps at a competition in France in 2004 and got an award for it. So football stamps from Albania, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Hungary, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Greece, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, USA, South Korea, Soviet Union, Uruguay and so many other countries. What does Jain plans next?
"I want to surpass John Aeillo, the football philatelist based in Munich, Germany. He has around 4,000 stamps on the most loved and watched sports in the world," said Jain.