I’m sharing a post I just published on the blog of my Soccer Politics class at Duke. Hope you enjoy it!…
(Durham, NC. 1/14/15…)
I am turning 30 years old next week –yes, I’m old, I know. Although I have watched 7 World Cups in this 30ish years –one of my first soccer memories is a penalty kick blocked by Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea in Italy’s 1990 World Cup; also, I know a great number of you were not even born when USA played against Brazil on July 4th 1994 but I remember that game clearly–, my national team participated in none of these cups. I’m from Peru, a country whose last participation in a World Cup dates from 1982 (in Spain, where we didn’t win any single game, tied two, and lost one.)
My generation is a crowd of soccer addicts who get disappointed, frustrated, and angry every four years. All these years, we have rooted for another Latin American country in the World Cup instead of ours. Generally, for Brazil. Some people root either for Uruguay or Argentina as well. Although Brazil is commonly my favorite team, I rooted for Argentina last year because I wanted Messi to add that trophy to his track record. We never ever root for Chile –Peru and Chile have a difficult relation that I will explain in a post later. For some countries, like mine, the joy soccer offers will never be about winning “el Mundial.” We only ask God to participate in one soon. Or before we die. Just being one of the four Conmebol national teams in the World Cup. Even if we loss every single game then. That’s all what we have been asking for almost 30 years.
It’s not that our players are bad. As a matter of fact, if you follow the Bundesliga, you might know that Claudio Pizarro, a Peruvian soccer player, is the top foreign scorer in German soccer history. And Nolberto Solano, nowadays a retired player, is an idol both in Argentina (Boca Juniors) and England (Newcastle United.) Excellent Latin American head coaches –Francisco Maturana, Sergio Markarián, Paulo César Autori– have failed in their mission to make our nation’s most desired dream come true. But why? Although they are not the only factor, let’s focus on the players’ responsibility in the following lines.
Peruvian soccer players are usually quite skillful… but undisciplined. Children in Peru play “fulbito” in school as part of their Physical Education courses. This mini-version of real soccer –usually each team only has 5-6 players who play on a field that is usually a sixth of the size of an official one– boosts the players’ skills significantly since they have to learn how to control the ball in a quite reduced space. The goals and the ball used to play are smaller so accuracy is enhanced as well. When these children grow up, they play real soccer almost artistically.
Unfortunately, discipline and dedication do not complement these rich abilities. Every week Peruvian sports newspapers and gossip magazines publish articles and photos of young professional players who get drunk after games –and are usually caught cheating on their girlfriends/partners/wives. Young promising talents wasting their potential. Probably the most representative case is Reimond Manco. When Manco was 17, he received the award for Best Player of the 2007 South American U-17 Football Championship. He scored three goals and was a key factor to make the Peruvian national team reach the FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea the same year. Sports publications idolatrized him back then. Nowadays, however, he is 24, plays for a minor Peruvian club, and is considered as an alcoholic by Peruvian gossip magazines. Such a waste!
In addition, as a culture, Peruvians love “la criollada”: the art of tricking the system/the law without receiving any further punishment… and being overtly proud about that. So not only do professional players misbehave in public but also media usually celebrate that misbehavior. Instead of censoring Manco’s misconduct, for instance, TV shows and newspapers regularly interview him to ask about the girl he had an affair recently and his last alcoholic blackout. Not a great model for younger players at all.
The Peruvian Football Association represents another cause of the disastrous contemporary situation of Peruvian soccer and I’ll focus on it soon. ¡Arriba Perú!…