Soccer, or futbol, is a HUGE thing here; and, as I knew that the sport was very popular around the world, and especially in Latin and South America, but I had no idea just how popular it is here!
I got a chance to go to the Peru vs. Paraguay game last weekend in Lima at the National Stadium! It was INSANE! The game was a qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup which will be played in Brazil. The entire city seemed to stop and either attend or tune in for the game. The week before, a few members of our group waited in line for 8 hours just to buy tickets!!! They are sold at a typical ticket vendor, but easily sell out within the day that they are put up. There is truly not a bad seat in the stadium and as the tickets let you into particular sections, but don't specify the seat to which you are assigned, most fans wait in line the day of the game to get in first and get a good seat. This is what our group did as well. We went to the stadium at 2pm for our game which started at 8:30pm!! Although it was a six hour wait, the time passed quickly because of all the excitement going on around the stadium with vendors and other fans. I was with a group of a few Peruvians and a few other American students. We were interviewed at least four times by news cameras (blonde hair blatantly stands out here!) and being foreigners enjoying the game and cheering for Peru, many stations wanted to interview us. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize we would be interviewed on camera and neglected to do our homework on the Peruvian national team. So when asked questions about our favorite players, leading scorers, and the club’s record or history, our answers were probably a little embarrassing. Ha.
Once they opened the gates to let the fans in, it was a mad-dash to the doors of the stadium and into the seats. We got INCREDIBLE seats (about 8th row) and at the end of the field near the goal where Peru scored their two goals in the second half to win the game 2-0 over Paraguay! Inside the game, the excitement of all the fans was unlike anything I have seen in the US. There were fans with fireworks in the crowd and the wave went around the stadium about 100 times! Throughout the entire game, the crowd was fully engaged and excited, and when Peru scored their goals, the crowd, and even the entire city went crazy! You could hear the cheering in all streets in Lima! Of course, the celebration was equally exciting after the win!
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all the university classes were cancelled during the game! Again, the entire city stopped to watch the game. Unfortunately this time, Peru lost. But still, the experience was great!