Here we are. Peru is on the verge of qualifying for a World Cup, which could be, for many young Peruvians (30 is still young, right?), the first time we’ll be able to wear the glorious red-sashed Peru jersey to a bar and actually participate in a World Cup viewing. It could actually be the first time we don’t have to choose another team like Argentina or Brazil to root for…at least for the group stage. I’m sure Peruvians are all up in their feelings right now. In my own family, I’m excited and nervous–after all, the Houston Astros just won the World Series for the first time ever, which means it’s a good year for the underdog. Meanwhile, my dad remains cool and collected; he’s an experienced soccer fan and he’s had his heart broken many times before. Even though we’re only one home game away, it’s fútbol and anything can happen.
Peru hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1982, and tomorrow, la Blanquirroja is facing New Zealand at the Estadio Nacional de Lima for the final game of the inter-confederation playoffs to see who will, once and for all, make their way to Russia for the World Cup in June. It’s a big moment for the country and its people, and we’re all biting our nails in anticipation. If you want to latch on to a sense of community before the game, we gathered 6 things that every Peruvian fan can relate to as we head into the biggest game for the country in over three decades.
Back in 1969, composer Félix Figueroa Goytizolo was inspired to write a polka that would immortalize the first Peruvian team to ever qualify for the World Cup. Players like Teófilo Cubillas and Héctor Chumpitaz were among those cemented in the lyrics of the song, titled “Peru, Campeón.” Those were the glory days for Peruvian soccer—participating in World Cups and winning a Copa América title in 1975.
Red-and-white is pretty much your skin for 90 minutes when Peru plays. You’re most likely wearing the jerseys a la Blanquirroja or have the Peru flag draped over your shoulders like a cape. Since Peru has been so close to qualifying over the past few months, sales of the team’s official jerseys have increased by more than 900%. ESPN also reported that jersey sales in Peru were expecting to climb over three million before the first game of the inter-confederation playoffs against New Zealand.
¡Arriba Perú, carajo!
There’s “¡Viva Perú, carajo!” and “¡Vamos Perú, carajo!” too, so you can switch it up as you please, but all these phrases hold the same R-rated patriotic sentiment: LONG LIVE PERU! And well, if you’re not Peruvian, you may be thinking carajo is a curse word, and yeah, you’re right. But we use it in this phrase as an interjection to proclaim our love for the country. “¡Arriba Perú, carajo!” is just as patriotic as ceviche and Inca Kola, and the best way to get riled up before the game begins.
Paolo Guerrero News...All of the News
Paolo Guerrero gestures during a match between Brazil and Peru as part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
It’s been over a month since Peru faced Argentina in the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which means it’s been over a month that Peru fans have been tortured with the thought of WILL WE OR WILL WE NOT GO TO THE WORLD CUP?! And then the hard news hit: Paolo Guerrero, Peru’s leading all-time scorer, the player who scored six goals in the final round of qualifiers, the man who basically got us this far… failed a drug test. It could be flu medicine, who knows, but the point is that he’s not playing in the final game that will DETERMINE OUR LIVES FOREVER. I’m being dramatic, but fútbol is dramatic. And we’re on edge to hear any news when it comes to our golden boy.
Peru Plays, We Party
Peru fans sing ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between New Zealand and Peru at Westpac Stadium on November 11, 2017. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Even though Peru hasn’t made it to a World Cup in 36 years, that doesn’t mean that Peru fans don’t get pumped to watch when their team plays in World Cup qualifiers or in any other matches—especially in the last couple of years. In the 2015 Copa América, Peru made it to third place, and last year, the team made it to the quarterfinals at the Copa América Centenario. The World Cup qualifiers are giving us more of a reason to bring out the pisco, pop open a Cristal, and party for our patria. Because at the end of the night, win or lose, after a couple rounds, it could carry on the party or serve to ease the pain.
"Maybe in 4 Years..."
Peru’s players pose for a photo before a match between Brazil and Peru as part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Not to get all somber here, but how do we young Peru fans know the pain of missing a World Cup time after time after time? Sure we’re sad, but we don’t know what it’s like to have participated at all. For many of us, our parents and grandparents have tasted that bit of glory in the ‘70s, and remain hopeful it’ll happen again in their lifetime. The least we could do is remain hopeful too. And if the worst happens? Well, there’s always the next World Cup…