By Rodrigo Garcia
Rosario, Argentina, Dec 21 (EFE).- Lionel Messi was a hero in Argentina long before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but his popularity seemingly has no bounds after the Albiceleste’s thrilling triumph in soccer’s showcase event.
And La Pulga’s iconic status is nowhere more evident than in his home city of Rosario, whose main tattoo parlors are struggling to meet a sudden spike in demand for images of the soccer superstar.
“It’s crazy, and it’s going to stay crazy for a while longer … because I think (demand will remain strong) for several more months. While we already had quite a few requests per day, an average of 50, now we have more than 300. It’s exploded, for real. We can’t keep up,” said Maximiliano Carreras, who runs the Studio Orbe tattoo shop in downtown Rosario.
The main requests are for images of Messi, particularly of him lifting the coveted World Cup trophy after Argentina’s victory over France on Sunday in a penalty shootout, although others ask for tattoos of Argentine head coach Lionel Scaloni – who was born outside Rosario in the town of Pujato -, star goalkeeper Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez or Angel Di Maria, also a Rosario native.
“And then something more simple like the date, Messi’s last name, some phrase he uttered at the World Cup, for example ‘What are you looking at, dummy?'” Carreras said, referring to the now-famous remark La Pulga said to Dutch player Wout Weghorst at a press conference after Argentina’s narrow victory over the Netherlands in a heated quarterfinal contest.
“What we feel here for Leo is incredible because he’s from Rosario and he makes all of us very proud.”
On one bed inside the parlor, 17-year-old Jeronimo calmly lies face-down while getting a leg tattoo of Messi kissing the World Cup trophy.
His mother, Luciana Diez, sitting patiently next to him, recalled that her son changed his mind at the last minute.
“It’s his first tattoo; we actually got a reservation about a month and a half ago, and he was going to get a tattoo of a cat because they do very realistic tattoos. But after this World Cup thing happened, he changed his mind,” she said laughing.
“It was really something historic,” Jeronimo added.
Diez, for her part, said she won’t get a tattoo of Messi because he formerly played as a young boy for a youth team of Newell’s Old Boys, the crosstown archrival of her favorite club, Rosario Central.
Business also is booming at Slave Tattoo, an establishment in Rosario operated by Jose Maria “El Pela.”
He said demand for tattoos of Messi, “Dibu” Martinez, the World Cup trophy and other images related to Argentina’s victory have “doubled, tripled and even at times risen five-fold.”
“As soon as the final whistle after (Gonzalo) Montiel’s last goal” to win the penalty shootout, a barrage of messages arrived from people wanting to make a reservation, El Pela said.
Though noting that most want images of Messi with the trophy, he said those are quite big and time-consuming so some ask instead for other tattoos, including ones featuring the trophy with the date or the new three-starred Argentine kit marking the country’s current tally of World Cup titles.
According to these establishments, a Messi tattoo typically costs 30,000 pesos ($167 at the official rate and $90 on the black market) or more, depending on how detailed the image is.
“I’ve loved him since I can remember. He’s my idol. He’s a role model as a person, as a player, I’m speechless. There are no parameters, statistics, there’s nothing,” said Agustin Barbosa, showing off his day-old tattoo of Messi kissing the World Cup trophy.
A player for Atletico Pujato, one of the teams in Scaloni’s hometown, Barbosa spoke to Efe outside the gates of the private neighborhood where Messi stays when he is in Rosario.
After getting his first tattoo two months ago – of a ball with a crown – he made a reservation for one featuring Messi with the World Cup trophy, confident that Argentina would win.