Peru’s World Cup fever united the country

St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow
Updated 16 June 2019

When a plan goes horribly wrong!

So, you make all the preparations to be part of one of the best sporting events in the world – ‘Russia’s World Cup’, I flew to Moscow on a very early flight at 6am on 14 June, on the opening day which was taking place in Moscow between Russia & Saudi Arabia. I had just returned from Peru 3 days earlier, so I was still a bit jet-lagged, I packed everything from my beloved white shirt with the red sash to my flag which I had just bought in Lima. To my horror, once in Moscow I realised I had forgotten to bring my match tickets!

Having bought the tickets online a few months before, it was purely a matter of luck as to whom they were allocated, I had to wait in front of my pc to be accepted online just to order tickets for 4 hours and then you have only 10 minutes to process your order. At Domodedovo Airport, the people representing FIFA didn’t want to help, they said no duplicates were issued and suggested that I had to go back to England to get them. No amount of tears and/or pleading seemed to make any difference to the guys at FIFA, so I decided to go to the hotel and make a plan to get the tickets.

While locals and tourists were busy watching the opening match, a possible solution was starting to form in my mind. Being a travel agent, I went immediately online to check flights departing London Heathrow to Moscow Domodedovo in the next few hours then I made a phone call to my friend Cecilia in London (we have known each other since we were at university in Lima), I begged her to go to my house, pick up the tickets and drive to Heathrow airport and find a good Samaritan who was on the evening Russia bound flight to take them. She met a couple of English lads who were travelling that evening, one was called Robin. Cecilia asked him for the favour and took a picture of him so I would hopefully recognise him. I hardly slept that night, and was at the airport at 4am to meet the flight. It was such a relief to meet Robin and his friends, they gave me my precious ticket. Due to time running out there was not even time to have a quick drink with them as I had to rush back to Moscow to take the long train journey to Saransk.

I want to thank Cecilia for being there for me when I needed her and Robin for bringing my tickets to Moscow. Peru did not go far in the World Cup, but I am hoping they will have a decent tournament at the Copa America taking place now in Brazil.

In Moscow with other Peruvians - Tambo Travel
This family had travelled from Cusco.

Independence Day – 28 & 29 July

Peru is currently celebrating 197 years of Independence. On the 28th of July 1821, Don Jose de San Martin proclaimed Independence for Peru in the Mayor Square, ending almost three centuries of Spanish colonisation.

This festivity is celebrated everywhere in Peru between the 28th & 29th of July. Every 5 years a new President gets elected on the 28th  , and on the 29th a military parade takes place in one of the main streets of Lima.  Recent political events have marred the feelings of many Peruvians at the coming festivity.  But this is offset to a degree by the amazing memories of Russia during the recent World Cup.

Peruvian fans marching in Saransk
Peruvian fans marching in Saransk – ‘Banderazo’

Russia 2018 World Cup

I, like many of my compatriots, was lucky enough to attend this event after a lengthy 36 year wait, (hopefully won’t be so long next time). It was truly breath-taking to see thousands of Peruvians on the streets of Moscow. The famous Red Square had an air of Lima’s Plaza de Armas. Nikolskaya street is a gathering point for fans across the world, situated near Red Square, this was the base for many of the Peruvian fans who came to Russia to support our national team. Our shirt is a distinctive white shirt with a red sash.

The FIFA statistics show that only 6 countries (including the USA, who did not qualify for the tournament but has many Latinos living there) bought more tickets. All in all we Peruvians purchased 43,000, (possibly higher as many Peruvians travelled from other parts of the world with different passports). In fact it transpired we had more fans attending than England, or any European country except Germany which is impressive.

Mordovia Arena Saransk Stadium

I travelled to watch the first Peruvian match against Denmark in Saransk, which was the smallest of the World Cup venues. This included a train journey of 9 hours to reach it. When I arrived we found to our delight it was already swamped by Peruvians. Even on the train, the hymns, songs and chants kept us all entertained including, remarkably the three Danes in our carriage. Also let us not forget the stories of our compatriots, who apparently sold their cars or re-mortgaged their homes in order to be able to travel to Russia. On arrival some even found no trains or flights available and had to hire taxis which took 10 hours each way and cost up to 500 euros per person so they could be in Saransk to support our national team.

World Cup Peru vs Denmark in Saransk

Some of us had planned a ‘banderazo’ – a march starting in the centre of Saransk walking and singing together till we arrived at the Mordovia Arena. A number of the streets were consequently closed and the locals appeared pleasantly surprised to see the many thousands of Peruvians singing, all wearing their shirts with many carrying flags. At the stadium we felt like we were in the National Stadium of Lima, there was an invasion of joyous Peruvians who did not stop singing in despite being behind Denmark by the only goal of the match. On the stadium speakers played ‘Contigo Peru’ another hymn for Peruvians, many had tears in their eyes, having never seen Peru at a World Cup. This dream was unfortunately cut short when we lost against France, but just to be there was most important thing to the many Peruvians in attendance.

Peruvian fan at Saransk Stadium

I am all for Peruvian fans supporting our team, thus bringing our people together to show the world who we are and that we are proud of our culture. Viva el Peru!

Me and fan number 1 from Peru in Saransk
With David Chauca – number 1 fan of the Peruvian National team
Elena Larkin’s images

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