Football in Argentina is a religion and a matter of state. Collect the World Cup sticker album as well.
With less than two months to go before the Qatar World Cup, the government added the challenge of completing the album to the country’s political, economic and social problems.
The Secretary of Commerce got involved this week in the controversy between representatives of the newsstands and the publisher Panini, in order to mediate an agreement that seeks to solve the problems of supplying both the stickers and the albums to these establishments, which had traditionally channeled distribution.
Panini promised the Argentine administration and the kiosks to control the 60 official distributors so that they ship the products to all of the country. In this way, the authorities seem to have solved one of the priorities of the citizens – whether they are young or not: getting the stickers of the main football stars.
There are those who are willing to complete the album in record time and pay anything for the missing tights. However, the scarcity of figurines led, firstly, to the appearance of signs at points of sale announcing that “There are no figurines” and, later, exorbitant prices in exchange for them.
There are advertisements on the popular online sales website Mercado Livre offering Messi’s special sticker for 22,000 Argentine pesos, which is equivalent to just over US$ 150 (R$ 789) at the official exchange rate this Friday (23). Normally it would be worth less than a dollar.
Some local media reported that the chrome of the Argentine ace reached 120,000 Argentine pesos, about US$ 825 (R$ 4,344).
The situation started to get worse when newsstands, which traditionally sell the album, complained that Panini “betrayed” them and was putting them aside to give priority to other establishments, such as supermarkets, gas stations and virtual markets.
At the mediation meeting convened by the government, representatives of the Italian publishing house stated that they will control more and better their 60 official distributors, he told CNN Adrián Palacios, vice president of the Argentine Kiosk Union.
Those looking for albums and stickers on newsstands will either have to wait in long lines, begging for the shortage to end, or go to other sales channels, such as supermarkets, gas stations and the parallel market, where prices are increasingly higher.
“Goal in the first minute of the game”
“On the first! No, no… first pack, first pack! I won Messi, Dad!”. That’s what Joaquín Stahlschmidt exulted in a video posted on his Twitter account. In August, this young film student found, in his first sticker pack, the most precious gem for Argentines: Lionel Messi’s chrome.
“It was crazy. In the first package I took Messi, I didn’t believe it. And I posted it on social media to show what had happened. In two seconds, it went viral, amazing”, says Joaquín.
It was like scoring a great goal in the first minute of a final.
For collector Claudio Destéfano, the Panini phenomenon has its roots in the fact that figurines have been collected in Argentina for several decades. The ritual, says the journalist specializing in the sports field, was to have his idols from the country’s first division football portrayed in an album, fill it in record time, find “the difficult one” (hard to obtain chrome), and then run to the bank to look for the prize: a ball.
Although the current context has changed, what has not changed is the passion for this “religion”. Parque Rivadavia, in the center of the city, has been transformed in recent weekends into a place where fans can exchange stickers.
The internet plays a big role in this, as it allows them to get closer and have information about where in the city or country to go to buy stickers or albums.
until the last figurine
In August, a few weeks after the release, some fans managed to complete the album. Massive purchases over the internet, exchanges scheduled by WhatsApp and a later personal meeting, allowed the task to be accomplished.
But that’s not what happens with Joaquín: “There are a lot of people who buy 200 packs, fill the album, and that’s it. For me, the fun goes slowly.”
Claudio, who owns a kiosk in the Almagro neighborhood, interprets that this phenomenon, which is so strong in the current context that Argentina is experiencing, is due to the great moment that the national team is experiencing and the proximity of the World Cup.
On the other hand, for Destéfano, the reason is different: “When you interact with your child, if we play on PlayStation, you lose from seven to zero. If you talk about technology issues, you don’t win. On the other hand, the father has the possibility to pass things on to him and share stories with his son”.
Both Claudio, at his kiosk, Stahlschmidt, at the University, or the collector, in his study, underline that the phenomenon is purely analogous. “The physical or material object has something that the virtual will never give you”, says the young student.
The situation with Panini even led the US ambassador to Argentina, Marc Stanley, motivated by Jorge Argüello — the Argentine ambassador to Washington — to buy his sticker album and challenge his colleagues from other countries.
It also made Mateo, son of Lionel Messi, show the figure of his father through a post by his mother, Antonella, and that the coach of the Argentina National Team, Lionel Scaloni, in the midst of the friendlies that Albiceleste will play in Miami and later in New York, comment with the CNN : “My son does, I’m sure he collects them and he must also be without those figurines. I didn’t know they were sold out.”
The World Cup is coming, and all Argentines dream of the great achievement in Qatar. At the same time, many fans, like Stahlschmidt, want to continue completing the album while football’s biggest event is played out.
The eyes of this Independiente fan and the national team light up when he says: “Screaming ‘champion’ at the same time as having completed the album of your idols is something that is priceless”.
See details of the album and Brazilian stickers:
Source: CNN Brasil