Estadio Nacional, Lima – On Tuesday Sept. 6, 2016, it became a spectacular night for Peru’s National Football Team soon after an intense World Cup qualifying game against long-time rival Ecuador. A stunning victory at home has once again revived the nation’s hopes and dreams of witnessing their national team participate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia. A week prior to the game, the team suffered a fallback 2-0 loss against Bolivia in La Paz. Due to the prior loss, Peruvian players entered the field with desperate need for victory while fans attended the match with low morale, expecting the worse but hoping for the best.
For Peru, the match began with a magnificent opportunity. Ecuadorian forward Gabriel Achiller conceded a penalty during the eighteenth minute with a hand ball inside the penalty area, giving Peru an opportunity to score a penalty kick. Fortunately, Peruvian forward Christian Cueva was able to score proceeding with a 1-0 lead over Ecuador. Afterwards, the game became intense, filled with fouls being committed by players from both countries. It wasn’t until the thirty-first minute when Ecuador was able to tie the game with a header from Achiller. The unexpected tie threw Peruvian players off-balance forcing the team to step-up their defense. The crucial tie meant one careless mistake could change the outcome of the match against Peru’s favor. The intensity continued; Peru kept attempting to make plays while Ecuador continued to counter-attack. Then, with approximately twelve minutes left in the game and after many missed opportunities to score, Peru was able to make a stunning comeback claiming their second victory at home. The goal scored by non-other than defender Renato Tapia filled Peruvian spectators with heart-throbbing joy, screaming “Gol!!!” at the top of their lungs.
According to CONMEBOL standings, Tuesday’s victory has currently granted Peru a total of seven points while remaining in ninth place behind Bolivia. There are ten more games remaining throughout the qualifiers and Peru needs to obtain at least a total of 15 points to qualify (or at least make the playoff round).
So far, it has been a long and struggling journey for Peru during these World Cup Qualifiers. They began with a 2-0 loss against Colombia at home, followed by another loss against Chile in Santiago. It wasn’t until the third game that Peru was able to overcome their losing streak with a 1-0 triumph win over Paraguay. But the victory did not last long after yet, another loss; this time, against former champions Brazil. Afterwards, a 2-2 tie against Venezuela and another loss against Uruguay have further increased the team’s struggle towards Russia.
You ask, “Why do the people of Peru take football (aka soccer) very serious?” Well, like other nations within Latin America, Peru’s pride also greatly thrives through football. It is the country’s greatest past-time sport. For most Peruvians, football is the core foundation of their childhood. Growing up within the different barrios (neighborhoods) of the country, it is practically the only thing most Peruvian children between the ages of five and ten know and love. In the movie Asu Mare! (Peruvian slang for “Holy Crap!”), actor/comedian Carlos Alcantara portrays football’s essential role within a recreation of his youth. As a child growing up in his barrio, Alcantara explains he discovered many things. One of the most important things he discovered is that the world is indeed “round.” He states:
“When living in my neighborhood, you discover things. One of the most important things, even before learning about Columbus, was discovering that the world is indeed round. In a [foot]ball-playing neighborhood such as mine, one must draw blood, sweat, and tears inside the field. There, respect is only obtained through your ability with the [foot]ball… that is how I met my closest friends.”
Even though Carlos Alcantaran led a career path in entertainment, his passion towards football remains loyal. For Peruvians, football ties back to their initial beginnings. For the majority, it is how everlasting friendships have established, conflicts been resolved, and unforgettable memories created. Among many other Peruvians, famous singer/composer Gian Marco Zignago also does not hold back when portraying his passion towards Peru’s National Selection. Every time there is an international match (whether competition or friendly), Gian Marco demonstrates his support through social media. He is constantly posting tweets of encouragement during each match. Even, he composed a song called “Vamos Peru” (Let’s Go Peru) in order to encourage the players as well as the whole nation through music.
Since their last appearance in Spain 1982, Peru’s National Football Team has not been able to qualify for another FIFA World Cup. Even, the team has not been able to win another Copa America since 1975. In addition, no Peruvian football club has ever won the Copa Libertadores. For Peruvian fans, it has been so long that majority have lost faith in the National Team. In fact many Peruvian fans weren’t even born when the team last qualified. They yearn to see that day finally arrive and there will be enormous joy to witness their national team, once again, make an appearance at a FIFA World Cup. The question remains “when will that day finally arrive?” It has been thirty-four years. Peruvians must continue to have faith but with each loss, the hurting wound reopens. Tuesday’s victory has once again revived the nation’s hopes and dream. Hopefully, this South American underdog will once again rise in order to reclaim its former place among football’s top guns. Vamos Peru Carajo!