Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
Read earlier columns
Travellers Tales - Cusco, Perú
Bienvenidos a Cusco, Bienvenidos a Perú.
Welcome also to the tourist trail, the land of Machu
Picchu and gringos, where tourism is very much the
main industry in town. As I wrote last time, I am on
holiday, travelling overland across Andean South
America. But I am still on the look out for the World
Cup (or Mundial, as it is very much known in these
parts). And it has not been very hard to spot here,
even in a country that has played no part in the
finals since 1982.
South Americans love Fútbol, it is their first love
and national sport, and it dominates television and
newspapers like little else. Currently Perú is a
fairly strife-ridden place. Lima is dominated by
police barricades, allowing tourists (and their vital
US Dollars) into the central areas, but keeping the
locals out. Life is not quite as bad as it was in the
1970s when fascist Juntas ran death squads all over
this beautiful continent, but there is still an
undercurrent, an idea that the military and their
tanks are not too far away. People here live
incredibly hard, difficult lives. Many spend each day
just trying to survive in dignity, and they know as
well as everyone else that Western globalisation is
never going to improve their lives.
Central Lima and the suburb of Miraflores give a very
respectable impression of European sophistication, but
even here - just under the surface - poverty,
repression and alienation run deep. For all the
Italianate or Spanish- Peruvians strutting their stuff
in Gucci and Armani in Central Lima there are several
million more in Callao and the countryside living hand
to mouth. Life is hard, and it is barely getting
better. And the people here do not even have Fútbol
to keep them happy.
At least they do not have a successful national team
anymore. Alianza Lima and Sporting Cristal still have
millions of fans across this country, but long gone
are the glory days of Quiroga, Chumpitaz, Sotil,
Muñante and Cubillas. This group of players last made
an impact over 20 years ago now, yet as I have
travelled around Perú it is this team that is
mentioned whenever the World Cup is brought up. As an
Englishman, coming from a country that has barely even
played Perú, it is sometimes hard to have any feelings
about this team. That is of course until you talk
about the game that every Peruvian wants to talk about
to people from Britain.
On June 3 1978, Perú met Scotland in their opening
World Cup matches up in the Andean foothills of
Cordoba. Scotland had left the UK very expectant.
Just four years before they had comfortably held
mighty Brasil and had only been eliminated on goal
difference, undefeated. In the four years since a new
generation of players led by King Kenny Dalglish and
Graeme Souness had emerged to replace Denis Law and
Billy Bremner. They had eliminated the current
European Champions Czechoslovakia in qualifying. Even
better, they were in the ascendancy over England, and
were at the World Cup when the Auld Enemy wasn't.
Big things were expected in Argentina. Every Scotsman
tried to make the trip to the other side of the world,
flying, sailing and hitchhiking the thousands of miles
to the Andes. It was also the birth of the replica
shirt, and when groups of fat, sweaty, beer swilling
Scotsmen started to arrive in South America, many
locals thought that these "athletes" in their Scotland
shirts were the real team! Instead, the real Scottish
team was triumphantly circling Hampden Park on the
back of trucks, certain that they were on the march
with Ally's Army all the way to the World Cup Final.
In particular, Scotland were confident of beating
Perú, that "ageing" team that had played well in 1970,
but was surely not as good as Bruce Rioch and Don
Perú had been a force in 1970, going to the
quarterfinals, where they lost to Brasil. Cubillas
had been the star of the tournament for Perú, and his
five goals placed him third in the Golden Boot race,
behind only Gerd Muller and Jairzinho. But that was
eight years ago, and just like everyone else he was
much older. However, Perú had one big advantage over
the Scots - altitude.
One of the things you notice about Perú is its
altitude. Upon arrival in Cusco I suffered from a
shortage of breath just like almost everyone who comes
here. But for many Peruvians this is just a fact of
life, something else to conquer like poverty or the
near tropical summer heat. And in Cordoba, in the
foothills on the other side of the Andes, altitude
would make a big difference.
For someone coming from the low-lying mid-latitudes
like myself or the 1978 Scottish team, it is always
going to be difficult to perform athletically in the
same way you could in Britain or Europe - no matter
how much acclimatisation you have.
In fact, the Scottish camp was in disarray, arguing
over money and who controlled the team. Ally MacLeod,
their hapless manager, was just lucky to be there,
having to win only four games to get to Argentina. Even
then he had to rely on a Joe Jordan handball to see off Wales at Anfield. He
struggled to understand tactics and man-management.
But he talked a great game, and seemed to truly
believe Scotland would win the World Cup. And it was all over and
done with after 76 minutes.
Scotland actually scored first, through Jordan, but
the game is remembered for Cubillas. He demolished
the Scots, embarrassing Alan Rough in the Scottish
goal, and creating the myth of failure that surrounds
Scotland still to this day. Of course, Scotland went
on to beat Holland, and Archie Gemmill scored that
wonder goal, but after the shock of the Cubillas
thunderbolt, Scotland were all but out.
Perú went on to the second group stage, were they
infamously accepted an Argentinian bribe to let in six
goals. That has tarnished the reputation of this
team, and utter Peruvian failure since has only
compounded matters. Outside the Estadio Nacional
today there is still evidence of past success with
plaques high on the wall speaking proudly of victory.
But on the streets it is Argentinian and Brazilian
shirts that fill the stalls. Even in the local
markets you cannot find a Perú shirt, with its famous
red stripe, at all. It seems that the world has
forgotten Perú, and that although everyone still
watches the World Cup it is to see Ronaldo or Beckham
and not the new Chumpitaz or Cubillas.
Times have changed, and for a country that is very
much in the third division of world football, Perú
have a long way to get back. I for one hope they do
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.