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In Latin America, World Cup stickers are a quadrennial craze

Photo: Miguel Schincariol / AFP

AFP | Rodrigo Almonacid with Latin American bureaus

Some spend crazy amounts, others line up at dawn or gather at informal swap meets — anything to satisfy a passion that combines love of soccer, this year’s World Cup in Qatar and the ever-popular pursuit of Panini soccer stickers.

Sold in 150 countries, the stickers seem to arouse a particular frenzy in Latin America because of the possibility that this might be the last World Cup for Argentinian football icon Lionel Messi, who is 35, or that a Latin American side might finally break Europe’s hold on the Cup. 

“Almost everything I earn, that anyone lends me, or that they owe me, I invest in the stickers,” Hilda Losada, who is Argentinian, told AFP.

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The 68-year-old grandmother, who is working to complete her album of nearly 700 stickers — and her grandson’s as well — has been waiting in line since 5:00 am for the opening of a store in Buenos Aires.

The stickers have been in short supply for days in Argentina, with the government itself intervening to mediate between the Italian publisher and frustrated shopkeepers who want a bigger piece of the juicy trade. 

“This is one of the few places where you can find them now,” Losada said, standing in a long line of collectors.

Not everyone will leave happy, and some are vowing to turn to the black market, if need be, even if it costs twice the official price of about $1 for five stickers. 

Her family tells her she’s crazy, but Losada pays them no mind as she happily pursues her fascination. She has been collecting the cards every four years since she was “a little girl,” she insists, even if galloping inflation in Argentina — currently at 56 percent — does not make that easy.

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“Argentina is nearly always in an economic crisis,” shrugged the shop owner, Leila Edul. “But now, with these stickers… money somehow appears out of nowhere.”

That is true despite the soaring price of a packet since the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In Brazil, the cost has doubled, from 37 US cents to 74 cents. 

‘We like to trade’

“My father bought me three packets,” said an exuberant Tiziano Orselli, 14, as the two inspected the offerings at a swap meet at Buenos Aires’s Rivadavia Park.

“When I saw ‘Argentina 19’ and realized it was Messi, I was too happy,” he said. I showed it to everybody and then I stuck it, there, in the album,” he said, his eyes still wide at the thought. 

Mauricio Valencia had set up a table on sawhorses and piled it high with stacks of stickers to trade or sell. He said he had done this previously in Colombia, because “in Latin America we like to trade (Panini) stickers.” 

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“But it’s not the same here,” he added. “There is such fervor — it’s packed every weekend.” 

Raul Vallecillo, a Panini official in Chile, said Latin American sales have exceeded the expectations of the Italian manufacturer, which published its first album for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

Chile’s national team did not qualify for this year’s World Cup, which opens in Qatar in November, yet Panini sold in a single month the stock it had expected to last four months, he said. The same trend holds in Venezuela, Colombia and Peru, all of which also failed to qualify, he said.

Vallecillo said the infatuation with the cards is heightened by the likelihood that this will be the last appearance of aging superstars like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as the hope the Argentine or Brazilian side will be able to break the European teams’ 20-year stranglehold on the championship. 

Street vendors

In Sao Paulo, collectors have been gathering outside the Football Museum.

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Forty-year-old Leandro Fonseca is on the hunt for some special-edition stickers, including some with Neymar’s image, which have been selling on the internet for hundreds of dollars.

“I’m off to a late start on the ‘extras,’ but I hope to fill 20 albums, he said. “I fill several during every World Cup.”

He said he had spent around $1,800 so far to complete seven albums.

Across Latin America, the resale business is brisk. 

On a busy road in Montevideo, children come, carrying lists of sticker numbers, to try to buy those they’re missing.

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The stickers of stars like Messi, Neymar and local favorite Luis Suarez sell for around 100 pesos ($2.40). Other lesser stars from the Uruguayan, Argentine or Brazilian sides go for 20 to 50 pesos, while still others go for just 10 pesos (though a star like France’s Kylian Mbappe brings in 50 pesos). 

Guillermo Orcile has been helping his seven-year-old son Salvador complete his album entirely through trades.

“It’s important that he understand how trading works, which makes these albums important,” he said.

“Because if it’s just about buying, then the spirit is lost.”

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  • A child buys Panini World Cup football stickers at the Analia Franco shopping center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on September 23, 2022. - Some have the goal of filling twenty, while many line up since dawn to get the few envelopes available. And others, purists, are satisfied only with sheets printed in Italy, birthplace of the World Cup album that drives Latin Americans crazy. Like every four years, the Panini album of the World Cup, which this time will be held in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, measures the temperature of a region that goes out of its way for football, and that is excited with the possibility for Lionel Messi or Neymar to break the European hegemony. (Photo by Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP)

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International

Food prices send hunger soaring in Latin America: UN agencies

Photo: AP News

| By AFP |

Rising food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean caused the number of people going hungry in the region to rise by more than 13 million between 2019 and 2021, a United Nations report said Tuesday.

The report by three UN agencies said the region was particularly vulnerable to the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine due to a high reliance on wheat, maize and fertilizer imports.

“The number of people in the region suffering from hunger increased by 13.2 million to 56.5 million,” read the report, released at a press conference in Santiago, Chile.

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In addition, moderate or severe food insecurity affected 267.7 million people — 40.6 percent of the region’s population — in 2021. 

This is “far above the world average” of 29.3 percent, said the report.

“The rise in food inflation and extreme poverty is one of the factors behind the increase in food insecurity and hunger,” said the report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the FAO, food insecurity refers to a lack of regular access to healthy and nutritious food.

“The heavy reliance on imported fertilizers, and fluctuating food prices, have an unavoidable negative impact on livelihoods — mainly of the rural population — and access to healthy food,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director-General.

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International

Colombia landslide kills 34

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

Heavy rains in northwest Colombia sent a wall of earth crashing onto a winding road, swallowing up a bus and other vehicles and killing 34 people, emergency services said Monday.

The landslide Sunday evening prompted a large rescue effort, with dozens of people in hard hats using backhoes and excavators to dig through the earth looking for victims.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management said the fatalities included eight minors and that nine other people were injured in the disaster in the remote town of Pueblo Rico.

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The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, and traveled 270 kilometers (170 miles) before being hit by the landslide as it passed through the Andes mountain region, civil defense officials said.

Colombian media reported that a child had survived and was pulled from the arms of its mother, who did not make it.

One survivor said the bus driver had at first managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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The country has declared a national disaster over the rains linked to the exceptionally long La Nina weather phenomenon, which cools surface temperatures and is currently causing drought and flooding around the globe.

Today, the landslide “puts this town in mourning, tomorrow it could be in another area, because we really have many unstable areas in the country, and the rainy season has not ended,” said Javier Pava of the UNGRD.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said last week the La Nina conditions could last until February or March 2023.

In Colombia, the phenomenon has also caused crop damage, compromising food supplies and leading to soaring prices.

In July, three children were killed in northwestern Colombia when a landslide buried a rural school. In February, 14 people died in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains in central-western Risaralda province.

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International

At least 27 killed in Colombia landslide: president

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

At least 27 people were killed when a landslide engulfed a road in northwest Colombia, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles, said President Gustavo Petro on Monday.

“It is with sadness that I must announce that, so far, 27 people, including three minors, have lost their lives in the tragedy” that struck on Sunday in a remote area of the Pueblo Rico municipality, Petro wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, the president reported three dead, as dozens of rescue workers searched for survivors.

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One survivor said the driver of the bus managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, civil defense officials said.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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