World Cup Fans: 'Football in the blood' of Peruvians preparing for Socceroos date


Food, music and football are the three passions of Peru. With the World Cup on the horizon, how will Australia's Peruvian community handle being grouped with the Socceroos?

'World Cup Fans' is a special SBS News series running in the lead up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It looks at the 32 qualifying countries through the eyes of their fans in Australia. 

Peru makes its long awaited return to football's global stage when the World Cup gets underway in June.

But being grouped alongside the Socceroos means split loyalties for Peruvian-Australians.

Passions will be riding high at the Sporting Peru Social and Cultural Club, founded by Peruvian migrants in Sydney in 1981.

"Thirty seven years, this club. Up and down, up and down. We try to continue our culture here in this beautiful country," Edgar Villar, a senior member of the club, told SBS News.

"But our kids are half-half and they love Australia because it gives them a lot of opportunities."

The Peruvian national team is ranked 11th in the world
The Peruvian national team is ranked 11th in the world
Getty Images

The Peruvian national team is known as La Blanquirroja - the white and reds. 

The squad comes into the World Cup in Russia ranked 11th in the world and might fancy itself a good chance of progressing to the knockout phase of the tournament.

"I think it's in the blood. For most Peruvians, it's in the blood," Wilfredo Vega, another senior member of the community club, said as he donned a special football jersey made for upcoming World Cup.

Members of the Sporting Peru Social and Cultural Club
Members of the Sporting Peru Social and Cultural Club

The top half is green and gold for Australia, the bottom half red and white for Peru - with both countries' football crests stitched upon it.

"I came out here in 1971 and I was six years old. However I grew up in Australia. I think we live it in the blood. The beautiful thing about it is, we've been blessed because we can actually support Peru and we can support the Aussies, because we grew up in this country," Mr Vega said.

The Alianza Lima team that perished when their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean
The Alianza Lima team that perished when their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean

And Peru has a rich football history. The country has played in four world cups including the first-ever tournament in 1930.

It has also endured its share of tragedy. In 1987 it lost the Alianza Lima team when their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

Mr Villar - himself a former professional player back in Peru - knew some of those who perished.

"It's still painful for us. We lost a good generation, good soccer players and good friends you know. I know a lot of families from there. Sometimes when I go to Peru I have a reunion with the ex-players and we talk always about that tragedy," he said.

Edgar Villar, pictured bottom row, far right
Edgar Villar, pictured bottom row, far right
Edgar Villar

Now a new generation gets to watch for the first time as the country they love plays at the World Cup. And loyalties are divided.

Angelica - in her early 20s - will support her parents' homeland when they take on Australia in both teams' final group stage match in Russia on 26 June.

"Growing up with it, it's always been Peru, Peru, Peru. But then you're split but I think your heart in terms of soccer is with Peru," she said.

Nicole - also in her early 20s - feels otherwise.

"Because I live here, I've grown up here. I respect that my parents moved here for a better life and I'm living that better life," she said. 

"They're so passionate about Peru and I get that but I'm all about Australia."

But for 83-year-old Amanda Pachas - a matriarch of the community club - there is still room for diplomacy.

"When Australia wins, I win. When Peru wins, I win. No problem for me because I've lived long here. For me, Australia is the best," she said.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins 15 June. SBS will broadcast the biggest games - including the opening match, semi-finals and final - live, free and in HD.

The World Game: World Cup 2018 match schedule and How to watch live.

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