America’s love affair with watching grown men pummel each other as they outrun their opponents while carrying a prolate spheroid a few dozen yards is still an alien concept in much of the world. Peru is no different. Here fútbol is king; football, not so much. But for the sports fans to whom Sundays are sacred, their dedication to the football doesn’t go on vacation — even when they find themselves in a foreign country.
Photo: Kevin Raub
It seems like only yesterday that Brazil defeated Croatia to kick off the world’s biggest football tournament and greatest month of nationalistic sport way back on June 12. Where did the time go? Brazil has proved itself a worthy host over the course of the last four weeks, putting to bed all of the pre-tournament panic that dominated news headlines for the two years leading up to this moment: The stadiums were gorgeous, the travel infrastructure didn’t collapse (in fact, it was efficiently glorious!) and the protests drifted off with a whimper after the tournament’s first week.
Photo: Bridget Gleeson
So what if they’re finely trained millionaire superstars bathing in the flattering glow of an international spotlight? These guys are Argentine – and they like all the same things you like about Argentina. Steak on the parrilla, the Pope, a relaxing gourd of yerba mate at the end of a hard day’s work: La Selección Argentina, they’re just like us.
Peru may not have a spot in the world’s biggest soccer tournament, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a stake in the games. Sports fanatics from around the world – be they born and bred locals, relocated expats or travelers just passing through – are aligning themselves with countries like this is a no-holds barred game of Risk. Whether they’re gunning for the host country’s canary yellow and green or just in it because of bets on who will take a bite out of the competition, people in Peru are pledging allegiance and cheering their hearts out for El Mundial.
Photo: Beatrice Murch
You might have noticed Leo Messi’s face around town this past week: his smile was beaming down on the streets of New York, perched atop taxicabs and plastered on the side of phone booths beside the printed words ‘Don’t Miss Buenos Aires.’ Here in Argentina, the tourism campaign prompted a few jokes and some mild criticism – only because the famous futbolista isn’t from Buenos Aires, he’s from the city of Rosario. The conversation got me thinking: where is everyone else from? It turns out that the players on the national team – known simply as ‘la selección’ – represent quite a geographic spread.