Peru, the Champion
After 36 years of waiting, Peru qualified again for the FIFA World Cup. The road was full of last-minute draws, epic comebacks and a lot of good luck. For some Peruvians, this classification means a lot more than for others, but all have been touched by it somehow. In this episode, we tell the stories of how Peru’s classification for Russia 2018 marked the lives of two fans.
You can read a Spanish transcript of the episode.
Or you can also read an English translation
A version of this essay was published by The New Yorker: The Euphoria of Watching Peru Qualify for the World Cup for the First Time In Thirty-Five Years.
You can also read this article by Daniel Alarcón describing his soccer upbringing.
If you want to get our new episodes via Whatsapp, please text us at +573229502192. You can also join Radio Ambulante’s Facebook group to discuss with others around each week’s story.
Translated by: Patrick Moseley.
[Daniel Alarcón, host]: Hey, Ambulantes. We’ve already started selling tickets to our two live shows this September. Did you already know that? Have you already bought yours? Well, here are the details: Tuesday the 25th, in Washington D.C., and Thursday the 27th in New York. This is in September.
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Welcome to Radio Ambulante, from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.
We’re talking about soccer in Radio Ambulate. The World Cup is starting in a few day and after 36 years, Peru —my national team— has qualified once more.
How did we do it? Last minute ties, epic comebacks and a no small dose of good luck. That’s how.
It’s a kind of joy that you don’t get to feel very often. It’s hard to describe. It’s intense euphoria mixed with anxiety over what comes next. And perhaps best of all, collective joy: All us Peruvians share it; maybe some more than others, but certainly no one is indifferent.
For some of us, qualifying is a childhood dream that has finally come true. For others —people older than me— it’s reliving an emotion they haven’t felt in years. And for others still, it goes beyond that.
[Fe Martínez]: I’m Fe Martínez. Uh, I’ve lived in New York for 4 years. I’m a communicator/journalist/jack-of-all-trades at the end of the day.
[Daniel]: Fe also worked with us at Radio Ambulante and that’s where we became friends.
And like me, Fe is a perennial fan of the Peruvian National Team. Through thick and thin.
[Fe]: I’ve been to games when we were really bad and our friendly matches, well, we played with the worst team you could face. The only team that agreed to play with us. Still, I went. Still, I got excited. Still, I cheered.
[Daniel]: And this love comes from her mother: Camu, as everyone calls her lovingly.
[Fe]: Since I was a little girl, my mom turned on the TV and I sat with her to watch the national team’s matches as well as the “U”, because she was a huge fan of Universitario Deportes. Uh…
[Daniel]: Which is like the second biggest club in Peru, right?
[Fe]: Hmmm…It depends on who you ask. [Laughs]
[Daniel]: Camu’s brother, Fe’s uncle, well, he was really into soccer. He was a fan of the “U”: el Universitario de Deportes. He liked going to the stadium, but when Camu was a teenager, her parents simply didn’t let her go with him. Because she was a woman. Because proper young women don’t go to the stadium.
That attitude bothered Fe’s mother a lot. And once she grew up and became a mother, she promised she would raise her daughters differently.
[Fe]: When I was a girl and I played soccer in high school —there was no team at my high school, but some of us girls who were friends played together— my mom was cool: She took me to get chimpunes, or cleats, even though they were super hard to get for women.
[Daniel]: Chimpunes is one of those words that’s different in every country: guayos, tacos, chuteadores, tapones, cachos, chuteras, tachones… To make it more clear: they’re the shoes you play soccer in.
[Fe]: And my grandparents were like: “How can you allow this!?!”, right? “How are you letting her do this? How are you encouraging this?” And she was like: “Geese, I’m going to let her have what you wouldn’t let me”.
[Daniel]: Camu also kept her promise, bringing her daughters to the stadium. Fe was 13 or 14 years old and it was the first time she had gone to see a match. It was Peru v. Brazil at the Estadio Monumental, in Lima.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter 1]: Salas to Peruza.
[Presenter 2]: Goal, goal, goal!
[Presenter 1]: GOOAAL! GOOOOAAAAL!!!
[Daniel]: We tied.
Camu was always a smiling, happy woman who was always cracking up laughing. But she changed at those games. It was like she was a different person.
[Fe]: She was silent, because she was really suffering.
[Daniel]: To distract herself she always did crafts: She would embroider or knit to control her nerves from the match.
[Fe]: But with one eye on the screen and then she would end up undoing everything she did.
Every time there was a corner kick or a free kick she would mess up. She wouldn’t know what to do, she was like: “Ok. That’s it. Now we’re done for.”
[Daniel]: And when her team scored a goal…
[Fe]: She would get really excited. And I remember, if I was watching the game in my room and she was in the kitchen, all of a sudden you would hear her shouting goal through the whole house.
[Daniel]: Peru qualified for the World Cup in Russia on November 15th, 2017, in a repechage match against New Zealand in Lima. Peru won 2 to 0. The first goal was by Jefferson Farfán and the second was by Christian Ramos.
When Farfán scored we all knew we were almost there. We were nearly in the World Cup. It was a moment full of adrenaline, tears, embraces, a moment of joy that is rarely felt in Peru.
Where were you when you saw the goal…that last…match? Farfán’s goal?
[Fe]: At home.
[Daniel]: Here in New York?
[Fe]: Yes, in my apartment.
[Daniel]: With friends.
[Daniel]: Too stressful?
[Fe]: Uh, yes and no. Uh, we were already waiting for my mom’s final moments… then.
I barely remember the match. In the end it all feels like such a blur. But yes, I mean, I am happy, it’s an incredible dream to see Peru in the World Cup. But… she’s not here, you know?
[Daniel]: In January of 2017, Fe’s mother was diagnosed with a very strange form of cancer called small cell neuroendocrine cancer. It started in her lungs and over time it spread throughout the rest of her body.
The prognosis wasn’t good. In Lima, Camu’s doctors advised that she seek treatment abroad. So, toward the end of June, Fe’s parents practically moved in with her and her sister, Carmen María, in New York. They came and went from Lima spending weeks or even months with them.
This is a difficult question, I’m sorry. At what point in your mother’s illness did you realize…?
[Fe]: From the beginning.
I don’t know if it was the face of the first doctor we saw. Tears were nearly falling from her face. She looked at us and it was like she didn’t want to say what she was saying. But maybe I didn’t process it.
[Daniel]: Before the diagnosis, Camu felt like she was ill, seriously ill. So, when they got the news it didn’t come as a surprise. But Fe remembers that at its core her mother’s spirit didn’t change: She never stopped smiling during those nine months of treatment.
[Fe]: A smile, I mean, ask whoever: everyday she had a smile, a big smile and two big beautiful eyes…
[Daniel]: Sometimes she showed fear, of course. Other times she cried. But she kept on being the mother she had always been: a happy and positive woman. All of the doctors admired her for how she was dealing with her illness.
And for Fe and her mother, one of the best distractions, one of the best therapies, was soccer. It was seeing this Peruvian National Team, the one that would take us to the World Cup.
Camu spent some of her last months at an in-patient rehabilitation center in New Jersey. There, Fe and her mother would watch the last matches of the qualifying rounds. It was against Colombia.
[Fe]: With our jerseys and our little hats, we cheered at Guerrero’s goal. And the nurses came to ask what was happening [laughs] because everything was quiet and there were two crazy women shouting. And it was like: “No, no, no. They scored.” You know?
[Daniel]: Of course.
[Fe]: I don’t know, I like to think that was something that helped her.
[Daniel]: Soccer can be something happy in the darkest times. There are thousands, millions of examples of this. Someone once said —I don’t remember who— of all the things that aren’t important, soccer is the most important.
Even more so in moments like these. For Fe, seeing those matches with her mother was a way to be excited and experience something extraordinary together.
[Fe]: And yes, I mean, I was lucky and… and what I won was getting to spend time with her. I mean, it’s something that I’ll have for the rest of my life. In a way it was giving back to her everything she gave me, right?
[Daniel]: Camu was lucid for most of her illness. The day of the game when Peru qualified she was weak. But…
[Fe]: She told me: “I’m going to try to make it through the whole game.” But no, she fell asleep. And they told me: “Go home to watch it.” And I said: “No, maybe she’ll wake up. Maybe we can watch it together.”
[Daniel]: Her dad stayed to sleep with Camu that night.
[Fe]: And I asked him: “Please don’t tell her, let me tell her.” Alright, perfect. The next day, I came with my iPad, with the goal and the match ready to show her if she was OK. And I got there and she was somewhat lucid.
And I tell her: “Mom, I have something to tell you!” She says: “What is it?” “Farfán scored a goal.” “What!?!” “We’re going to the World Cup!” And she opened her eyes —and my mom really did have beautiful eyes— and she started crying with joy and she said: “I can’t believe it.” And she looks at me and says: “I knew my cholitos could do it.”
And I say: “Do you want me to show you the goal?” And she said: “Of course! But I also want to see the whole match.” And I showed her the goal. And well, since toward the end she had a few “loops,” you know, every so often she would say: “Alright, show me the goal.” “Show me the goal.” And well, the truth is it was a nice “loop.” you know, showing her the goal multiple times that day. And we tried to watch the whole match but in the end we couldn’t. She couldn’t. I mean, we watched parts of it, but she fell asleep or…That was the last day she was lucid. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or what. But it was her last day.
[Daniel]: Camu passed away the following week, on November 23rd.
Fe is going to experience this World Cup with mixed feelings. We have the same excitement and joy of seeing what will happen with Peru; but every match will remind her of her mother. In a way, soccer is now part of her mourning.
One day, not long before we sat down to talk, Fe was in the subway in New York. She was watching a video a friend of hers uploaded. It was a recap of Peru’s qualifying: the matches and the goals. And…
[Fe]: I started crying like a child, I mean, it was bad. So bad that people came up to me on the train and said: “Are you ok?” I told them: “No, no, no. I’m watching a… a really exciting video.” Lies!
[Daniel]: It’s difficult to put into words. How do you deal with something that’s given you so much joy and at the same time reminds you of the loss of someone you love very much? Will you ever be able to separate the two feelings?
Fe still doesn’t know, but she’s in the process of finding out.
The last match she saw of the Peruvian National Team at the stadium was a friendly against Iceland, which was played in New Jersey, in March of 2018. She took advantage of the fact that it was close and went with a friend.
[Fe]: I got there and it was great: it felt like, well, almost like I was in downtown Lima because there were cars with Peruvian flags. And I’m going up the stairs to go into the stadium and everything, and I pull out my phone automatically to call my mom and tell her: “Mom, I’m at the stadium because I got last-minute tickets.” And at that moment realizing: shit, I can’t call my mom.
And 1, 2, 3, breathe [inhales], there was nothing else I could do.
What she wants most of all is for you to enjoy this. And I think in the end, that’s the best way to… to remember her.
[Daniel]: We’ll be back after a break.
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[Gene Demby, cohost de Code Switch]: How can a family keep its traumas from being past down from generation to generation? The answer for one family may lie in the tiny Alaskan community where their ancestors have lived for centuries.
[Man]: I remember my uncle saying: “Here, take this 22. Until you can shoot a ground squirrel through the eye you can’t hunt with us.”
[Gene Demby]: A story about what we inherit on this week’s Code Switch.
[Terry Gross, host de Fresh Air]: This is Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air. We do long form interviews with the people behind the best books, pop culture, journalism and more, so you can get to know the people whose work you love. You’ll find Fresh Air on NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.
[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante, I’m Daniel Alarcón.
I want to tell you about my uncle Lucho. These are my cousins: César and Ciro.
[César]: My uncle is an ingenious guy.
[Ciro]: He has a way with words. He’s a good speaker.
[César]: Every time he introduces himself to someone, this is his line, you know: “My name is Luis Guzmán Segura, associate reporter.”
[Ciro]: Uh, that whole thing about being an associated reporter, you would have to verify how he got that association, but he always said the same thing.
He’s a guy who normally wants to be the witty one, the clown.
[Daniel]: Tío Lucho was special to us. We love him because he was fun, funny He has a deep voice and he likes to make joke. At that time, he always wore a leather jacket and dark gold-rimmed sunglasses.
In the early 80s, my uncle had a radio show on Sunday nights at Mollendo, a town on the coast of Arequipa, several hours south of Lima.
[César]: It was called Marcas y Goles [lit. Scores and Goals]. When my uncle talks, he emphasizes the letter “s” a lot. He would say “Marcasss y Golesss.”
[Daniel]: It was a sports show, that well, in Peru means a soccer show.
On the days of matches he would take a bus to Lima with a recorder. When he didn’t have enough money to pay for a ticket to get into the stadium, he would go to my cousin’s house, César and Ciro’s, and there he would watch the match on their color TV sitting in the best chair in the living room. He would turn down the volume on the TV and start narrating the plays into his recorder. And, so it would feel real, sometimes my uncle would say:
[Ciro]: “Do you hear the crowd?” And bam, he would turn up the volume and you could hear the TV, when people were shouting…
[Daniel]: During half-time, he would interview Ciro, César and Rafael —my other cousin— as if they were fans he’d found in the bleachers. They played along, excitedly recounting the most interesting moments from the match, prognosticating the victory for whatever team they were supposed to be supporting.
But that wasn’t all. My uncle Lucho would even pretend to be in the booth with the TV presenters, and sometimes he would even act like he was talking with them. He would grab his recorder and…
[César]: He would put it up to the TV speaker and start recording. In such a way that it seemed like they were both together in the broadcast booth.
[Daniel]: He loved to include commentary from Humberto Martínez Morosini, a famous journalist from Arequipa. My dad’s side of the family is from there and Morosini was the most beloved national TV presenter at the time. Just before Martínez Morosini would start talking, my uncle would go up to the TV…
[César]: And he would do a short introduction. Something like: “Here we are in the broadcast booth, elbow to elbow with Humberto Martínez Morosini so he can give us his commentary. Go ahead, Humberto!”
[Daniel]: And he worked his magic.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Humberto Martínez Morosini]: No one can say that it hasn’t been flattering for Lucho Reina. When we reached 7:49 of this halftime, anything could happen. And it happened: Barbadillo was good, we saw smart work from Leo Rojas projecting himself on that sector.
[Daniel]: When the match was over, Lucho would go back to Mollendo, to the radio station and without editing the tape, he would put it on air. My cousins say that participating in those dramatizations was the best way to watch the match. You felt like you were part of something special.
My family moved to the United States —to Birmingham, Alabama to be exact— when I was just 3 years old. In other words, my education in soccer was a little different from my cousins’.
The soccer teams in which I played during my gringo childhood were full of kids who weren’t good at any other sport. Either they were too small to play American football, too short for basketball or too distractible to put up with something as tedious as a baseball game.
We practiced twice a week. We did things that I imagine boys all over the world do at practice: we would dribble, practice long passes and controlling the ball. In our case, the coach kept track of us and scored us and when we reached the bare minimum of accomplishment, he would give us a patch. The idea was to get a lot. Or all of them.
Then our mom would iron these patches in our jerseys, as if we were in the Boy Scouts.
But despite all this, I would compare myself to my teammates and I considered myself a soccer intellectual. Just because I’m Peruvian. The country where I was born turned into my nickname. On the field my name was “Peru.” I’m sure it started as a kind of bullying, but then it became a source of personal pride. I liked that they identified me with my country of origin.
I had only been to the stadium in Lima once, an experience that I remember more for what I saw in the stands than anything that happened on the field. Fireworks, chants and shirtless fans showing their big bellies despite the cold.
That view of the stadium had an impact on me and I felt like soccer was a kind of inheritance. I was like one of those insufferable hipsters that talked about a band they knew about first, only that I was 9 years old and that “underground” band was nothing less than the most popular sport in the world.
Most of my teammates had never seen an adult play soccer, in person or on TV. In the suburbs of Alabama, in the 80s, soccer was a child’s game.
When I was 8, our neighborhood team’s coach decided to change that. He amassed a library of videos, loaning out VHSs in which he’d recorded some European league matches. I remember that each cassette was labeled with a marker: the team, the date of the match…
My coach gave us homework. He must have been tired of seeing us run around the field like a swarm of bees. He wanted us to watch at least one match a week.
Now I’m 41 and even though I still play, now I spend more time watching soccer on TV. Any weekend, I can choose among the best matches in the world, from the best leagues and watch them on whatever size screen I want.
My friends send me links to clips of the best plays, links that in turn I send to my other friends. My son is 12 and he’s an even bigger addict than me. Until I changed the settings on his phone, he used to get an alert every time there was a goal in about 15 different leagues. I’m not exaggerating. On a given Saturday he could have 100 notifications before lunch.
Last year, when Peru was playing against Colombia, we watched the match on our TV through Youtube.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: Christian Cuevas, the center from Carillo to Paolo. Paolo!
[Daniel]: My wife is Colombian and her sister had come to watch the match with us. We were all in the same room, in front of the same screen, but we weren’t watching the same match:
They had headphones on and were listening to the Colombian commentators, imagining they were in Bogota. I was watching with my phone at the ready, sending anxious WhatsApp messages to my cousins in Lima, to a friend at the stadium and to another in Maine.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I tweeted nervously and I got responses from dozens of equally anxious Peruvians. When Peru was losing by one goal and was almost out of the World Cup, my wife, moved with sympathy, brought me a glass of rum. Aside from that gesture, we barely spoke during the match. Only when it ended with a tie that worked for both teams, did we return to a kind of normalcy.
Watching a match with Twitter is like watching it at a bar full of people. Watching it on WhatsApp is like transporting yourself to a friend’s living room. Watching it with both is a kind of meditation, a feeling of being in many places all at once.
(SOUNDBITE WORLD CUP SONG MEXICO ’86)
[Song]: Mexico! Mexico! Mexico! Mexico, Mexico ‘86!
[Daniel]: My first World Cup was Mexico ’86. I mean, the first one I remember. I was 9. It was also the first in a string of eight consecutive tournaments to which Peru did not qualify. The truth is that I was so caught up in the spectacle that I barely realized. Before that summer, I didn’t know what the World Cup was. I didn’t have a point of comparison. It hadn’t crossed my mind that we should be there.
Later I learned about our soccer tradition and the elegant Peruvian teams in the 70s.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: Attention: J. J. Muñante, Cubillas! Goooaaaaal! Goooaal, Peru!….
[Daniel]: Stories my dad and my uncles shared with pride, nostalgia and, more and more, with a touch of melancholy. Our sports heroes had names like Cubillas, Chumpitáz, Sotil, Oblitas…
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: Look, a right-legged pass from Muñante and Peru scores in the same spot!
[Daniel]: But they were already old, their glory faded, and they were never replaced. While our World Cup dry spell grew longer and longer, it started to seem like we would never make it. A good player may pop up here and there, but we didn’t have a team.
It’s not easy to compete in South America, which is considered by many the most difficult region to qualify in. Two World Cups without Peru turned into three. We got close in France ‘98, needing a tie with Chile in our last match. We went to Santiago full of hope.
And lost 4 to 0.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: I think Iván is going to recover faster to go to the party on November 16th. Don Marco Rezende says the match is over and Chile has scored on Peru.
[Daniel]: In 2001, I moved to Lima to study literature. I joined up with a group of art students —painters, illustrators, sculptors— and even after I stopped taking classes, I still went to visit them, spending long afternoons on the cement floor of a tiny studio that two of my friends shared.
My first real friends in Peru came out of this little group; which is to say, the first friends I had that weren’t relatives, and their approval meant a lot to me. One afternoon, I mentioned that I was going to the stadium to watch the national team. It was a qualifying match for Japan-Korea 2002 against Uruguay.
And silence fell in the studio.
“You’re going to do what?”
I remember the chorus of voices very clearly: Don’t go.
[Voice 1]: It’s going to be cold.
[Voice 2]: It’s a crappy stadium for a bad team.
[Voice 3]: They’re going to rob you as you leave. I’ll let you borrow my knife.
[Voice 4]: We’re going to lose. You know that, right? We always lose.
[Voice 5]: We aren’t going to qualify. Are you crazy?
[Daniel]: I remember blushing.
Then they started analyzing me: My emotional connection to the national team was a secondary effect of having been raised in the US. They all agreed that if I had grown up there I wouldn’t care. Maybe I would’ve like basketball. But not soccer. It’s so ordinary. You’re exaggerating to fit in, they told me.
I bet you have an Inca tattoo on your chest from when you were a teenager to prove to gringas that you aren’t white.
And they all laughed.
I do have that tattoo, of course. I got it when I was 17.
I went to the stadium anyway. My friends were right: we lost 2 to 0.
Sometimes, I feel somewhat inauthentic. Not totally American, not totally Peruvian. I’m sure that I’m not the only immigrant who faces a version of this. You feel like there is a part of you that you lose a hold of, that gets erased.
You lose your language. You share the same tastes as your group of gringo friends. And all the while, you’re country of origin is complicated and problematic. Its politics are opaque. What you do know about your country you gathered from a few visits, passing through the filter of your parents and relatives, influenced by their nostalgia or their disappointment, occasionally their rage.
Being an immigrant sometimes feels like a privilege. It’s like having access to a more interesting, more vivid world. Other times, it’s a burden. But it’s always there. That other country, occupying a space in your heart, in your head. Sometimes you wish it were simpler to explain what you feel when you hear the word “Peru.” You cling to those things that seem simple, that feel like pure expressions of a love that’s so complex you can’t express it, not even to yourself. You look for a way to celebrate your country without having to explain anything.
So, even when there was —objectively speaking— very little to celebrate, supporting the Peruvian National Soccer Team seemed necessary to me: a way of reminding myself who I was.
We’ve already mentioned the decisive match for Peru, which was played on November 15th, 2017, at the Estadio Nacional de Lima, against New Zealand.
I flew to Lima to watch the match at the stadium.
My telephone rang minutes after I landed: It was my friend, Julio, telling me that three shamans —one from China, one from Brazil and one from Peru— had consulted their oracles and predicted that Peru was going to win that afternoon. Normally I don’t put much faith in shamans, but in this case I felt relieved. All the newspapers had the same cover story, of course, all news that wasn’t about soccer went ignored.
In the streets it seemed like everyone was wearing the jersey: kids at the bus stop, babies in strollers, grandmas buying fruit on the street, ice cream vendors, an office worker in slacks and a blue blazer over the traditional white jersey with the red stripe. I saw several dogs wearing national team sweaters.
Early in the morning, around 2 am, some Peruvian fans had gotten together outside the hotel where the New Zealand National Team was sleeping and organized a kind of improvised fireworks show.
Later, at around 11, I woke up to a terrible sound. It was two Air Force combat planes that were flying over Lima.
[Journalist]: Flying overhead with the “¡Vamos, Perú!” White and Red. What a spectacle. Something like this, has never been seen, Pamela.
[Daniel]: From the window I saw how they crossed over the city, circling over the hotel where I’m sure New Zealand’s players were trying to rest.
Later, a government spokesperson said that it had not been their intention to intimidate our visitors. That the Air Force was simply offering their “super-sonic support” for the Peruvian National Team. The underside of the planes’ wings had been painted red and white.
(SOUNDBITE BACKGROUND NOISE AT THE MATCH)
[Fans]: Olé, olé olé, I love you more every day…
[Daniel]: That night went the New Zealand players came out of the tunnel to warm up, they looked a little out of it, a little haggard. A lot of them took out their phones and took selfies and recorded videos of the scene: 40,000 Peruvians, screaming their lungs out, the whole stadium was red and white. With the exception of a few New Zealanders who played professionally in Europe, most of them had never seen anything like it.
(SOUNDBITE BACKGROUND NOISE AT THE MATCH)
[Fans]: This feeling/ I can’t stop it/ Olé, olé olé, I love you more every day…
[Daniel]: The chants in the stadium started two hours before kickoff and they wouldn’t stop until an hour after the end of the match. It was a way of easing their nerves, but I still felt like the tension was building on my shoulders: 36 years is a long time. Fortunately, our players were not as nervous as I was: just two minutes after kick off, we hit the crossbar. After that, the offensive pressure didn’t let up until…
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: Trauco advances and now yes, now Cuevas is going to find it with room, and Cuevas sends it down to fake…
[Daniel]: A lightning counter-attack from the left side finished off by a cannon shot from the striker Jefferson Farfán.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenters]: Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal!
[Daniel]: The ball hit the net and the stadium exploded. Farfán ran to the side where he collapsed, overwhelmed with emotion, sobbing.
A lot of people were crying.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE MATCH)
[Presenter]: Goooaal! Gooaaal for Peru!
[Daniel]: I cried.
We scored again in the second half and that was it. The final whistle blew after 11 o’clock local time; a triumph, but also an exorcism.
I left the stadium in the early morning with a feeling of joy, catharsis and euphoria. At a park near the stadium, people were singing and dancing and climbing statues of forgotten Peruvian heroes, stretching jerseys over their stone torsos, hanging red scarves on the monument’s shoulders.
Later, near Kennedy Park in Miraflores, I saw a police van pass by. Its side doors were open, drunk fans were singing from inside, twisting and shouting like caged animals. On top, on the roof, some fans jumped from one side to the other while the van moved forward.
[Hans]: When we got to Kennedy Park there were different groups of supporters that were lined up with drums, there were people sitting in a bathtub that was being carried down the trail. It was madness.
[Daniel]: This is Hans, one of the people who was on top of the police van.
[Fans]: Oh, let’s go Peru!
[Daniel]: Seeing the van full of people, Hans looked at his friend Santiago and…
[Hans]: I tell him: “OK, that’s it, let’s get on it.” And we started running and not looking back I assume my friend was following me. I climbed on the van and I helped him up too. And then we were jumping on top of it, people were filming, everyone was singing. It was incredible. It was incredible.
It was our moment of joy… we were so carried away we had to be that crazy, you know?
[Daniel]: And from there, on top of that van, while it was moving along slowly, Hans and Santiago sang, exciting the crowd surrounding the street:
[Fans]: O, le le/ O, la la/ We’re going to Russia! What the fuck comes next?
[Daniel]: O, le le/ O, la la/ We’re going to Russia! What the fuck comes next?
[Fans]: O, le lé; O, la la; We’re going to Russia! What the fuck comes next?
[Daniel]: I have waited my whole life to ask that question.
[Fans]: We’re going to Russia! What the fuck comes next? O, le lé; O, la la; We’re going to Russia! What the fuck comes next?
[Daniel]: This story was produced by me with the help of Luis Fernando Vargas and was edited by Camila Segura. Sound design is by Andrés Azpiri.
Thanks to my cousins César and Ciro; nothing for Rafael who never sent me any audio, geeze. You’re going to pay for that. Thanks, Fe, for sharing your story with us. Thanks to Sabrina Duque, who helped us with some translation. Diego Salazar and Julio , who read the voices of my friends.
A version of this essay was published in English for the New Yorker. We’ll have a link on our website.
This week we have two new voices on the team. We received over 500 applicants from all over Latin America, the US and the world. We are very happy to announce that our interns are Lisette Arévalo from Ecuador and Victoria Estrada from Mexico. Welcome.
The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Jorge Caraballo, Patrick Moseley, Barbara Sawhill, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, Elsa Liliana Ulloa and Silvia Viñas. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.
Radio Ambulante is produced and mixed on Hindenburg PRO.
There is only one episode left in this season. Can you believe it? But, don’t be sad, because all the files —more than 100 episodes— are in our website radioambulante.org. And, well, one last thing before I say goodbye: I hope everyone enjoys the World Cup and that a team from Latin America wins.
So, like always, Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.