Collectors look over their World Cup stickers at a trading table outside the Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The stickers, which look a lot like baseball cards, are attracting collectors from all age groups as the World Cup nears. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
You may think you like getting stickers, but down in Brazil there’s a sticker frenzy going on, all thanks to the World Cup.
The World Cup is soccer’s international showcase event, and this year Brazil is the host of the tournament, which starts on June 12.
What does this have to do with stickers? Well, for every World Cup since 1970 the sticker manufacturer Panini has created a sticker album. That album starts out blank, and it’s a sticker collector’s job to find all the right stickers to complete it. Each sticker features one of the players expected to play in the tournament. This time collectors must gather a whopping 649 stickers to complete the 80-page album.
Since they’re known for their Soccer obsession, Brazilians have long been avid fans of World Cup sticker albums. In fact, everybody is talking stickers, from kids to adults, students to doctors. Even Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Collection obsession: The craze is at such a fever pitch that fans have set up trading places in front of stadiums, plazas and bookstores to swap their stickers in hopes of completing their sets. Some are hardcore collectors. Others are helping their kids or just there for the thrill of it. For others, its a bit nostalgic.
A soccer fans looks over his collection of World Cup stickers while sitting at a trading table outside the Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Stickers are sold in packs of five for about 45 cents. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
“The last time I did this was when I was just a little kid, but with the World Cup coming to Brazil there was no way I was going to pass up on this one,” said 32-year-old Fernando da Silva, who was trying to complete his second album at a trading point in front of the Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo. “The World Cup is here and this album will be historic. This brings back all memories from when I used to swap stickers with my friends at school.”
Likewise, stores and other public places are happy to cater to the collection obsession.
Hundreds of people have been going to the Pacaembu every weekend, as well as to other trading places across Brazil’s largest city, including supermarkets, cafes and malls. The city’s main art museum, MASP, is one of the most popular places for enthusiasts, attracting groups of teenagers, couples and entire families looking to swap their stickers.
There are even Internet groups devoted to people wanting to swap their stickers, and countless apps are at the disposal of fans looking for those hard-to-come-by stickers. There’s even a virtual album created by Panini.
“This time it has been really easy to find the stickers because everybody has an album,” said Inez Carvalho Oliveira, a 28-year-old pediatrician who was at the Pacaembu to try to find the 13 stickers still needed for her album.
Right next to her, 60-year-old Jucileia Lobato hastily flipped through a pack of duplicates, checking the missing numbers from her list.
“I started helping my grandkids when they bought the album because of the World Cup, and I liked it so much that I decided to buy one for myself,” she said, still looking at the stickers. “But I have to hurry because my husband is waiting in the car. … I just want to find a few more stickers.”
President Rousseff told journalists she is helping her 3-year-old grandson complete his set.
High demand: Panini has been in charge of the official World Cup album since the 1970 tournament in Mexico. It has two printing facilities, one in Brazil to handle sales for the Latin American market and another in Italy to handle sales for the rest of the world.
Panini says sales for this tournament’s stickers have already exceeded the previous World Cup, with Brazilians being the top buyers.
Thierry Weil, marketing director for FIFA, the global soccer association that runs the World Cup, said the album gives soccer’s governing body a way to “promote the FIFA World Cup and fuel fans’ excitement ahead of the event all over the world.”
“It has been very pleasing to see the interest from fans in collecting the stickers,” he said, adding that more than 1 million users had already signed up for the virtual album alone.
Buy 4,505 for the guarantee: In Brazil, Panini said it distributed 6.5 million free albums in marketing actions that began in April. FIFA said in a video on its website that fans would need to purchase 4,505 stickers to ensure a complete album. Each pack with five stickers costs 1 real in Brazil, or about 45 cents.
“These albums bring people together,” said 55-year-old computer science specialist Jan Mascarenhas, who was “a South Korean player away” from completing his set. “We are swapping stickers but we are also swapping experiences.”
Reported by TALES AZZONI of the Associated Press from SAO PAULO, Brazil. Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
A young collector in Brazil mouths a World Cup sticker while he contemplates a trade for another sticker. The boy was struggling to fill his World Cup Album, an 80-page book that requires more than 600 stickers to complete. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)