GRAND BOURG, Argentina - High school students in Argentina pieced together a massive mural of soccer superstar Lionel Messi out of thousands of recycled plastic bottle caps, with a video of the work of art shared widely online.
Almost nine months after the Argentine icon led the national team to global sport's biggest prize, the football-loving country is mired in a deep economic slump and political divisions with a high-stakes election looming later this year.
But love for Messi seems to loom even larger.
The new mural fills the floor of an open-air high school courtyard in the Grand Bourg neighbourhood, just outside the capital Buenos Aires.
It depicts the beaming forward holding aloft the golden World Cup trophy from last year's win in Qatar, along with a caption offering thanks to the team's tattooed captain.
Sebastian Ramirez, a teacher at the school, posted a video clip on social media that went viral summing up a widely-held assessment of Messi's legacy.
"A tribute to the greatest," he said.
Video of the mural's making showed dozens of children hunched over a colour-coded design and boxes of bottle caps scattered around.
Messi has proved a strong unifying force in the South American country, even as triple-digit inflation and the spiralling descent of the local currency dominates debate ahead of October's general election.
Radical libertarian Javier Milei leads the race, and has recently stoked controversy over harsh and at times vulgar criticism of Pope Francis, the country's other global icon.
The worst economic crisis in decades has swollen the ranks of the poor and fuelled anger with traditional party politics while also seen contributing to Milei's shock first-place showing in an August primary vote with 30% support.