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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

The Game

I’m really not a soccer fan. I never have been nor will I ever be. I think that it’s an incredibly boring game to watch but this yak isn’t to rail on soccer, it’s to do the opposite. A few days ago Peru made the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Before about a week ago I thought that the World Cup was a trophy that was given out every year. Now I know that it’s a tournament for the best national teams that takes place every four years. While we were in Nacion Q’eros Peru and New Zealand tied 0-0 in the first of two games to decide which team would make it into this years World Cup. The second game is what I want to write to you about.

The game started at 9pm here which is well passed many of our bedtimes. The group was supposed to meet up alongside many locals of Urubamba at that time in the main plaza to watch the game projected onto a giant screen. When 9pm rolled around I was in the middle of writing a letter while watching Terminator 2 with my host brother and his first cousin. None of us cared too much to watch the game, though we all wanted Peru to win, so I continued to write my letter while they continued to watch Terminator. I had just finished explaining that the Terminator was actually the Governor of my state for 2 terms when we heard yelling and screaming coming from the other family that lives in the same complex as us. We swiftly changed the channel to the game and sure enough Peru had scored. My host brother and cousin yelled and gave me huge, long hugs with huge, wide smiles on their faces. The joy shared between the three of us in that moment was immense. 1-0. I finished up the letter I was writing and went to my room to get ready to head to the plaza where I knew that that same joy would be shared between 200 times more people. I drew the Peruvian flag on my face with a red lip liner pencil using my pale skin as the white stripe and put 3 scrunchies in my ponytail (red, white, red) and then I left for the plaza.

It took me no time at all to find the group of tall, white blonde people. About half of the group was wearing Peru jerseys which immediately made me happy. I sat down on the edge of the group and listened to Hugh’s very thorough and actually helpful commentary of the game. A very drunk man to my left was continuously yelling “Peru” and trying to start chants. Everyone humored him and not once did anyone tell him to shut up or anything along those lines. Nothing but love and excitement existed in the crowd. I found myself frequently looking around at the people who made up this crowd. I saw smiles on faces, nervous hands fidgeting with anticipation-often holding drinks, and twinkles of excitement in the eyes of every single person. Everyone was united in so many ways over this game.

When Peru scored their second goal the entire crowd stood up and hugged one another. Air horns sounded, fists went up into the air, people yelled and jumped up and down for joy. After a few minutes of this everyone sat back down to spots that had greatly shifted during the brief celebration. Spirits were higher, people were drunker, and the odds of Peru winning were exponentially higher. 2-0. Mini celebrations continued as shots were blocked and plays were made. Nothing else worthyof standing and screaming until the end of the game including the extra four minutes that had been tacked on for time wasting. The celebration in the plaza when time was up was massive, no one scattered for at least 5-10 minutes after the game was over. The crowd was consumed by genuine happiness and pride. I stood there smiling. Freezing cold and very hungry, but smiling nonetheless.

The game was an amazing experience for me for many reasons, none of which being the game itself. I still don’t like soccer but the community surrounding it that night was something so amazing and special. I’m so glad that I was able to experience the game surrounded by my friends in the group and the people of Urubamba.

¡Viva Peru¡

-Ella Silverstein