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Jun 28, 2014

A great football tradition lives on ...

Juan Pablo Moreira, right, passes on a great Latin American tradition to his son, Juan Manuel.
Juan Pablo Moreira, right, passes on a great Latin American tradition to his son, Juan Manuel.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay - In Latin America, in lieu of baseball cards, kids try to fill up albums with a sticker of each player in the World Cup, buying the stickers in packs, trading with friends, working deals with the guys set up on corners all around cities and towns. In Montevideo, 90 minutes before the start of the first game of the knockout round, a father and son held a list of the missing numbers they needed to complete their set, flipping through cards on a vendor's table.

Juan Pablo Moreira is 45 and his son Juan Manuel is 11, although that seemed like a sort of technicality, both of them bundled against the cold, hyper-focused on the cards and their list, scratching off numbers once a player had been found. Messi, one of this year's most difficult cards to find - nicknamed el dificil in Spanish - is No. 430. Juan Manuel had Messi, but was missing about 50 others, and they wanted to get the collection finished by the start of the match.

Juan Pablo smiled when he saw his son focused, doing business, remembering 1982, the first World Cup where he was old enough to collect stickers. His family didn't have much money, so the first time he ever completed a set was four years ago, when he and Juan Manuel finished the South Africa book together. All those years ago, when he couldn't afford the cards to complete his set, he made a promise to himself; now, on a cold Saturday morning in Montevideo, he took his son on a quest, fulfilling a long ago promise he made to the 11-year-old him. They clutched their list and headed off down the main avenue in town, checking every street-corner seller, racing against the clock.