Attending my first soccer match ever is one thing, but getting to experience it in South America is another. The match was between Universitario and Alianza Lima: two big rivalry teams in Peru who have been battling it out for over 60 years.
Julio is a Universitario fan so I instantly became an obligatory supporter too – and I’m pretty sure I made the right choice, despite their pastey-coloured uniform.
I knew it was going to be a risky affair: passionate football fans in what I’d consider to be a fairly dangerous city. I’d been warned against bringing my camera – last time Julio took a foreigner one crazed fan attempted to rip her bag from her. Rock-throwing and riots are also common at these kinds of events.
The two rivalry teams unveiling their banners
Initially, we had to walk towards the stadium quite briskly to avoid any brawls outside the entrance gate. Once we were in, it was a little safer as we’d purchased the slightly more expensive tickets which meant we weren’t in the general section (and I’m really glad that we did).
A fight broke out in the general section above the Alianza Lima fans. Yellow plastic chairs, tables and large umbrellas were thrown around at each other, and then a few angry supporters began throwing them off the roof, into the crowd about 100 metres below.
Next thing, several spot fires broke out (all in the Alianza Lima section) and the police with their shields, big black boots and weapons came barging in. Rather than put the fires out, they charged at people in the crowd to prevent them from fueling the fire with confetti and other paper. It was a little surprising they didn’t have fire extinguishers on hand. Instead they stomped on the fire or waved their shields at the fire (didn’t quite help!).
The fight and flames break out
In terms of the actual game – aside from not having any idea about what was going on – it was great! There were plenty of yellow and red cards, failed attempts at goal and the usual drama of men faking injuries.
The most bizarre thing for me was that there was no siren. At the end of the match, a whistle blew, reporters and photographers ran onto the field and the fans bolted out of the stadium so quickly I figured they must have a party to get to.
I was a little disappointed it was a zero-scoring game – but it’s probably a good thing that Alianza Lima got to take their big trophy back home again (they won the last match). We had one rock hurled in our direction while exiting, so I’d hate to think how many more they would’ve thrown had someone scored a goal!
If you do have time while travelling through Peru I would definitely put this on your ‘to-do’ list. It’s a unique experience that’s for sure! A few tips when attending:
- Find out the colors of the teams who are playing, and wear something that is neutral. This way, it won’t look like you’re supporting either team and you’re less likely to have attention drawn to you.
- Don’t bring any valuables, or if you do – hide them in your pocket or under your jacket.
- If you’re on a budget, bring along a snack and drink as the food is at least double what you’d pay outside the stadium (a small, warm coke cost the equivalent of US$2.50)
- If you can, spend a little extra on the tickets to avoid sitting amongst the die-hard fans. It’s far better to watch from a distance than be in the scrum of it.
Eleanor Tan is a researcher and blogger for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.