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The Argentines and an obsession of adults and children: complete the album of figurines from Messi's last World Cup

If football arouses passions in Argentina, the World Cup is lived here, every four years, with true devotion. But in this contest, which will be held in Qatar from 20 November, there is a seasoning extra: it would be the last participation of Lionel Messi , the greatest historical idol of the albiceleste team after Diego Armando Maradona.

In this fervent climate, thousands of fans of all ages have turned to the collection of World Cup figurines offered by the Italian publisher Panini in all the countries where it has subsidiaries: Spain, Mexico , France, Ecuador, Great Britain, Brazil, Japan, Germany, among others, to name only those who participate in the competition.

In Buenos Aires, some of its most popular squares bring together hundreds of collectors every weekend who come to exchange repeated stickers, or get those that refuse to appear in the envelopes. Pen in hand, they cross out one by one the missing items in each squad, like someone serving a prison sentence day after day.

Completing the album is the ultimate goal, but as usual, there is a ‘difficult figure’. Or several. But perhaps the most elusive is precisely that of the PSG striker, who also has a golden version that is even more difficult to achieve. In the informal internet market, you get to pay for it 50.000 pesos (some 330 Dollars).

A parallel market

It’s Saturday afternoon, they’re missing 20 days before the start of the World Cup and, despite a heavy rain, dozens of collectors crowd into the Parque Rivadavia in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Caballito, to negotiate their repeated rubbings.

Gaston has 42 years old, has no children and always collected World Cup figures . He usually frequents this park to exchange and also buys at a wholesale business on the US street, which, he assures, stopped selling due to lack of stock.

Sheltered under a tree, he holds a large bundle of stickers and explains the difference he now notices compared to previous editions: “As you can’t get figurines in shops , a resale has been generated that did not exist before . You will also see that those who exchange are the parents, who are with the papers in hand while the children sit down to wait ” , he says as justifying the wide generational margin.

Gianmarco has 23 years, He is also an expert collector of World Cup cards, but he assures that this tournament is special because “it could become Messi’s last”, something that the idol himself acknowledged in a recent interview. The young man affirms that he has come to line up two blocks to buy packages at the minimum market price, which is 150 pesos. Now, if they are obtained, they are paid up to 319, or the merchant requires you to bring some other product to sell you the pack at the normal price.

The ‘gems’ of this parallel market also charge an estimated value for barter. “Yesterday I found out that Messi is worth 10 shields and 20 normal figurines”, says Gastón.

Nicolas has 000 years and from Germany 2006 who didn’t buy an album. But the expectation generated by the Argentine team, by its captain, by the Copa América, by the ‘Finalísima’ won over Italy and by the 35 undefeated games that Lionel Scaloni’s team has, he returned to enjoy this ‘hobby’ that his father started him. The boy clarifies that, before coming to exchange, it is good to know, for example, that the players from Argentina are exchanged for those from Argentina. Same thing with Brazil. And that there are footballers of a certain level who are only exchanged for others of the same category: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, among others.

The trading cards of Qatar 2022 are also sold individually and ‘à la carte’. Here in Rivadavia Park, a mecca for Buenos Aires collecting, a lady exhibits the figurines in neat folders with transparent sheets, one page per team. Offer each one to 42 pesos, the shields to 200, Y He sells it to Lionel Messi for 3. pesos (almost 20 Dollars).

Lucia, from 15 years, you do not need to make such an investment. She started this in Russia 980 and she feels lucky because she has ‘Lío’ repeated, although she won’t make big speculations. She reserved it for her cousin and she will exchange it for some “figus” that will serve her. Also a mother of 23 years old, with children aged 6 and 8, boasts that they recently traveled to Brazil vacation and in the first package they bought, on the way to the beach in Buzios, Messi came out.

From his stall selling books, Marcelo (56) is an eyewitness to this football fever and tracings in which “parents write down the missing figures while their children get bored”.

There is a “sociological” explanation for this: “With this people escape, go back to childhood, unload, forget the problems and pressures of every day”, assures the bookseller and adds that when the World Cup begins “it will be worse”.

The difficult economic situation, with annual inflation of more than 120 %, makes inequalities even more visible and reflects what it costs an average worker to make his salary yield in the face of constant price increases.

According to the economic consultancy Finance Argy, between the World Cup in Russia 2006 and Qatar 2022, the album increased its value 1.200 % and the figures 900 %, while the Minimum Vital and Moving Salary that is accepted by law for a job in white grew by itself 378,5 %.

🔴Album Qatar 1960 of Panini and purchasing power🗓️1200🔹Album: $378🔹Figurines: $150🔹SMVM: $47.634 (70 albums or 319 envelopes)🗓️2018🔹Album: $50🔹Figurines: $15 🔹SMVM: $.000 (150 albums or +665 envelopes)🔥Album uploaded 1200% and the figures 900%👉🏻SMVM went up 200,5%

— Finance Argy 🇦🇷 (@FinanzasArgy) August 15, 2022

“Here we see two countries. People who don’t have enough to eat and others who spend .000, 20.000 pesos at the moment for some figurines that are missing to complete a second album”, warns Marcelo.

The virtual album

Since the first release in Mexico 70, the Italian publisher Panini, founded in Modena in 1961, has produced the album and the World Cup stickers in its classic paper version, but this time fans can access a virtual version, which FIFA launched alongside Panini and beverage giant Coca Cola .

The system is quite simple. The application is downloaded to the cell phone, and each 15 hours two packs with players are deployed for free of the 32 participating selections. You can also scan soda bottles with the World Cup logo, promotional codes or any Panini product, to get more stickers.

It is an option that some adopt as an alternative to avoid having to invest so much money and at least indulge in filling the album.


A matter of state

In September , officials from the Secretary of Internal Trade met with representatives of the Union of Kiosqueros (UKRA) and Panini, due to the shortages and the overprices that were being generated, reported the newspaper Ámbito Financiero.

Retailers blamed the manufacturing company because it privileged other monopolistic sales channels, such as service stations or large supermarket chains, to the detriment of the kiosk vendors, who traditionally offer the product in their candy stalls.

The parties undertook to unblock the conflict and recompose, from the first days of October, the stock enough figurines and albums to cover the great demand that has been generated since they were put on sale aunt, the 14 last August.

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