On November 16th, just after 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the Peruvian Men’s National Soccer Team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in thirty-five years.
For Americans, this win might not seem like such a triumph. Even though our own national team didn’t qualify for next year’s competition, we’ve played in every single other World Cup there’s ever been. We don’t understand what it’s like to watch in anguish year after year as the team you love and support doesn’t get to participate in the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, ahead of even the Olympics.
But for many Peruvians, soccer is much more important than basketball and football in the United States; it’s a religion and a way of life. The day of the match, my classes were cancelled at the Universidad del Pacífico, businesses closed before lunch, and office workers left their jobs early. Streets were filled with people selling jerseys and scarves for people like myself who had waited until the last minute to show their support for the Blanquirroja (meaning red and white in Spanish, the colors of the Peruvian flag and team jerseys). Taxi drivers had been commentating and speculating on the score of the game for weeks. Suspense hung in the air like notorious grey clouds of Lima.
It all erupted in the 27th minute of the game when Jefferson Farfan’s goal tipped the score in Peru’s favor. The celebrations were of seismic proportion in Lima; they registered on the Richter scale and triggered several apps to send tremor warnings. Christian Ramos sealed Peru’s destiny with the second goal in the 65th minute.
After the game, festivities lasted all night and into the next day, declared a national holiday by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Friends, both old and new, embraced, many with tears of joy in their eyes. Fans ran through the streets singing while car horns honked the rhythm of the team’s chants. For once, I didn’t mind the noise.
What’s next? What if Peru doesn’t advance past the group stage? Won’t it all be for nothing? Absolutely not. Studies already indicate many positive effects of the qualification, including growth in real estate, car and retail sales, and financial sectors of the economy.
Peruvians are more confident in their country and more optimistic for its future. This win means progress: not only economic growth, but also more visibility for the country in the world. When I saw the expressions on my Peruvian friends’ faces after the final whistle blew, I knew Peru is headed for something great, on and off the soccer field.
The world awaits…discover it.