On a giant table in the Brazilian megacity of Sao Paulo teenagers spread out collectible stickers paying homage to their favorite soccer stars.
In the run-up to this month’s World Cup in Qatar – the biggest stage for the planet’s most popular sport – the special edition stickers are a prized memento for any young fan in this soccer-crazed South American country.
For these teens, however, the goal is to give them away.
“The stickers are very expensive,” said 15-year-old Allan Cohen, who started an initiative to donate stickers to poor Brazilian youth.
“I think everybody has the right to fill their album with the stickers,” he said.
Cohen’s charitable idea has gone viral and gained important support from players such as Tchê Tchê and goalkeeper Carlos Miguel, who recorded videos supporting the donation.
“It’s something that’s getting bigger and bigger,” said volunteer Felipe Len.
Collecting the business card-size stickers is a global craze among soccer fans ahead of the World Cup’s opener on November 20 in Qatar, but for many would-be collectors, inflation and economic hardship have kept them out of reach.
Buying the full album of 670 stickers would cost a minimum of 548 reais, about $108 – nearly a month’s wages for many impoverished Brazilian families.
Brazil has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor in Latin America and nearly a fifth of its population lives in poverty, according to data from the United Nations.
“I’ve never bought any because we literally don’t have any money,” said 13-year-old Ana Julia, whose hands shook as she opened a set of stickers and an album from Cohen and Len.
The stickers provide more than a moment of joy or mere soccer memorabilia, said project spokeswoman Beila Schapiro.
“We’re also allowing children to have the same opportunities,” she said.