A shortage of World Cup stickers in soccer-crazed Argentina is triggering a public commotion and even forcing the government to intervene two month’s before the year’s biggest sporting event. 

The stickers, a World Cup tradition for decades, are few and far between in Buenos Aires. On Tuesday afternoon, Argentina’s commerce secretary convened the sticker manufacturer, Italian firm Panini SpA, and a local union of kiosk stands that sell the stickers to reach a compromise. 

Panini says demand for this year’s World Cup is up by 40 per cent compared to the last tournament, outpacing the company’s own expectations and production, according to Argentine newspaper La Nacion. The kiosk union says Panini isn’t providing adequate supply. 

The government intervention -- a move by an administration known for its unorthodox approaches to issues from inflation to exports -- also speaks to the local soccer craze. Argentines’ sticker fixation in recent days has led to wall-to-wall media coverage, viral comments on social media and endless group chats on WhatsApp bantering about the shortage. Many joke that fathers frantically chasing around the city with their kids to find the stickers are actually trying to fill their own sticker albums, which require more stickers with each World Cup.  

An elaborate data visualization published by La Nacion this week estimates filling a sticker album would cost an average 133,500 pesos (US$923). Shortages at kiosk stands, which sell packets at the suggested price of 150 pesos or about US$1, are cheaper than those sold on e-commerce website MercadoLibre Inc., where combos of 10 packets are valued for 530 pesos each. Counterfeit, “do it yourself” options are also booming. 

Even with the tensions, some are taking the shortages with a sense of humor. A kiosk published a letter on its door in nine languages complaining that “there are no World Cup stickers,” but joked in a footnote at the bottom that Argentina’s neighbor and longtime soccer rival didn’t qualify for the competition: “Chile isn’t in the album.”