BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — There is a tattoo craze in Argentina.
Sometimes it’s to keep a promise, sometimes it’s a way of saying thanks, or just to be immortalized in the skin, it’s a memorable moment.
Argentina’s victory at the World Cup in Qatar suddenly meant that many tattoo artists across the country were booked out. They’re working overtime on designs that often include superstar Lionel Messi holding up the trophy, while the three stars hint at how many times the South American nation has won global football competitions.
This phenomenon is especially pronounced among those under the age of 30 who have never seen their national team win a World Cup. Argentina had previously won football’s most important trophies in 1978 and 1986.
The trend is a vivid example of how much World Cup victory can affect Argentines, who have been in deep economic trouble for years. It has one of the highest inflation rates in the world, approaching 100%, and almost 4 in 10 people live in poverty.
After spending nearly two hours lying on a chair in a tattoo parlor in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, Sacha Mortier finally made good on his pre-World Cup promise: get the trophy and the championship date tattooed on his face side of the torso.
“A whole generation hasn’t experienced this,” said Motier, 26. “We need it. This country is going through a tough time, and I think it’s been a while since we last had this happy time.”
It has been 36 years since soccer legend Diego Maradona lifted the World Cup title in Mexico, a heavy burden for fans in Argentina, a football-crazed nation that has no interest in the sport. Sports have a special passion.
Motier still has a pending promise to fulfill, as he and a friend have also vowed to tattoo a rock they found on the ground ahead of the national team’s quarter-final penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands.
“It’s a horrible rock from the ground, but it gave us luck,” Motier said. “You choose to believe.”
Shortly after returning from Qatar, Sebastian Fernandez headed to Yeyo Tattoos in the southern suburbs of Buenos Aires with a clear image in his mind: Messi kissing the trophy before the ceremony.
“Kiss or the image of Argentina becoming world champions in 2022 will be historic. It makes me proud to be there,” Fernandez said. “I wanted to paint something that reminded me of that experience, reminded me of some of the feelings I had at the time.”
César “Yeyo” Molina, a well-known tattoo artist in football, says he has never seen so many requests.
“The madness against the cup was impressive,” Molina said as he colored the Messi tattoo covering Fernandez’s entire thigh, which took two days to complete. “Working wise, we’re in an incredible moment and we can’t keep up. … I’ve never seen anything like it.
Molina is known for designing hyper-realistic tattoos, making him especially popular among those who want to embed specific historical moments on their skin. His tattoos typically cost at least $300, a steep price for the average Argentine.
Some fans without deep pockets have been trying to get cheap tattoos, and the results have gone viral on social media. One of the most notorious cases involved Messi’s tattoos, which made the player appear overweight and had a prominent double chin.
Santiago Aposto, a 31-year-old Argentine living in Mexico, didn’t want to take any chances and went to a well-known tattoo studio in Buenos Aires to make good on his promise to underscore his desire for Argentina to The group stage survived a surprise 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia.
“When you live abroad, you become more like an Argentine,” Aposto said while getting his tattoo as Messi kissed the World Cup trophy. “For our generation, it’s a bit like what our parents went through with Maradona. He’s from our generation and we feel like he’s our own, our representative in the world.”
After Messi, another player who has many fans wanting a tattoo is goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, nicknamed “Dib” for his performances against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and in the final. An outstanding performance in France’s penalty shoot-out, becoming a home-grown hero. .
Valentín Bobadilla, 20, got a tattoo on his groin when the goalkeeper made a controversial gesture as he won the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper of the tournament.
“Some people thought the vulgar gesture did get my attention,” Bovadilla said. “I had this feeling for ‘Dib’ after the quarter-final against the Netherlands and even more so after what he achieved in the final.”
Associated Press writer Débora Rey contributed to this report.
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