Just as I was feeling a growing sense of pride at seeing the collection of red and white jerseys intertwined with the yellow and green jerseys, I felt a sudden sense of fear – a crowd of several thousand could be easy targets for any deranged and armed person (let’s be real, white supremacist). These are the times we live in…can’t even revel with your people without literally looking over your shoulder, especially on the eve of 9-11.
The more people that streamed through the gates, though, the safer and prouder I felt. Peruvians and Brazilians, their fans, and fans of fútbol gathered Tuesday night at the LA Memorial Coliseum to watch a friendly rematch of the 2019 Copa America final, which Brazil won 3-1 in July. About thirty-two thousand people showed up to witness a classic of a game – well played on both sides through the only goal of the game, a header by Peru’s Luis Abram in the 85th minute that handed Brazil its first loss in over a year. ¡Arriba Perú!
It was my first time at the Coliseum and second time at an international game – first one in ten years when I witnessed Peru beat Argentina in a friendly in Peru. The game itself was exciting – Peru came out aggressive on the defensive end and pushed the action offensively. They looked like the better team for most of the game. Then came the loudest roar of the game when the world-famous Neymar entered the game – a treat for all fans. If you’ve seen him on TV, you know he’s fast – incredibly fast in person! His presence energized his team, but with a nice goal-saving play by Peru’s goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese, towards the 80th minute, it was not enough for Brazil to break through.
The crowd was boisterous – chants of “PE-RU” would spontaneously erupt, as did chants of “BRA-ZIL.” Some optics aside, fans were not allowed to tailgate, nor bring noise makers or masks, for example (all things allowed at regular games with triple the fans), it was a beautiful experience. After the game, Brazilians broke out in “PE-RU” chants and Peruvians returned the favor with “BRA-ZIL” – everyone went from whence they came in peace. No negative press coming from this event…it was all love. At times throughout the game, I was in my head – thinking about my own existence, and how all of us are one and the same. Peruvians have as much African, European, and Native as Brazilians, as Mexicans, as Hondurans, as every single person in this hemisphere. I look at my family, all shades and features, and see a microcosm of what I saw at the stadium and what I see on a regular basis. Can fútbol be the remedy for all the hate we see? At least for one night, it was.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two family members who have played on Peru’s national teams – my cousins Manuel Marengo and Christian Ramos – who always filled our family with pride whenever they stepped on the pitch. ¡Te amo Perú!
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