Peru and All Whites face off for World Cup

Gisborne's sole Peruvian heads to Wellington to scream for her team.

Gisborne's sole Peruvian heads to Wellington to scream for her team.

“My dad says I am not a lady when I watch football. I start swearing, I become really passionate, then after the game I become a lady again.” — Cynthia Alva-Lopez. Pictures by Liam Clayton
'If Peru make it to the World Cip, we're going to go crazy.'

CYNTHIA Alva-Lopez never dreamed her new country would be the only thing standing between her old home Peru and a place at the football World Cup.

She certainly never imagined she would be there to see the game.

Today she and her partner travelled to Wellington to join thousands of other Peruvians to support their team against the All Whites in the first of two games to decide who goes to the World Cup in Russia next year.

“Seeing Peru in the big game is a dream,” she said. “If Peru make it to the World Cup we are going to go crazy.”

For the past four years the 29-year old who works in HR at NZ Fruits has lived more than 10,000 kilometres from the Peruvian capital Lima, her home city, but it has quelled none of her passion.

After captain Paolo Guerrero scored an equaliser against Colombia to send the Andean nation to this World Cup qualifying playoff she screamed so hard she could not speak for several days.

“I was screaming and crying ‘we are going to Wellington’ over and over. It was the most intense game I have watched.”

As the sole Peruvian living in Gisborne she had to watch the game by herself, but was one of 32 million Peruvians who celebrated harder than they had since 1982, the last time Peru made the World Cup.

She filmed herself watching the final moments of the game. Her reaction became a national sensation on social media and was even part of a commercial.

Standing in the way of football-mad Peru, ranked 10th in the world, are 122nd-ranked New Zealand.

Despite having star players, past Peruvian teams have been plagued by poor performances, bad team culture and a reputation for faltering on the big stage.

This time, things appear to be different.

“It is the first time in a long time we have had a good team,” Alva-Lopez said.

In the blood in Peru

Peruvians grow up playing football. In every town, no matter how small or economically-deprived, there is a football pitch.

If there is a big game on, work will finish early and the streets will be deserted.

“We love the emotion and drama. It is in our blood.

“My dad says I am not a lady when I watch football. I start swearing, I become really passionate, then after the game I become a lady again.”

Several hundred Peruvians live permanently in New Zealand, with an additional 100 working holiday visas issued each year.

Alva-Lopez is the only Peruvian in Gisborne, but she is part of a strong South American community including Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Colombians and Uruguayans.

It is normally a lengthy process for Peruvians to visit New Zealand but just for this game Immigration New Zealand expedited the process, allowing travel visas to be processed online for the special occasion.

Alva-Lopez said she hoped the game would help grow relations between the two countries.

“There are communities in Auckland, Queenstown and Wellington, and for the game some are coming over from Peru, and a lot are coming from Australia, Singapore, Japan and other countries.”

Football New Zealand chief executive Andy Martin’s comments that New Zealanders should make Peruvians feel unwelcome here were quite hurtful and not well received back home, she said.

“He generalised about us badly. Football is competitive, but it should be a big party that brings the two sides together.

“We have been really pushing for Peruvians coming here to be respectful.”

Wellington promises to turn into a little bit of Lima for the night with two nightclubs hosting Peruvian parties featuring Peruvian DJs, and several restaurants preparing Peruvian food for the occasion.

Alva-Lopez said it was hard to predict the outcome, especially after captain Paolo Guerrero was ruled out of the game for failing a drug test.

“All I can say is Paolo scored the goal against Colombia to get us here, so we will take him to the World Cup.”

CYNTHIA Alva-Lopez never dreamed her new country would be the only thing standing between her old home Peru and a place at the football World Cup.

She certainly never imagined she would be there to see the game.

Today she and her partner travelled to Wellington to join thousands of other Peruvians to support their team against the All Whites in the first of two games to decide who goes to the World Cup in Russia next year.

“Seeing Peru in the big game is a dream,” she said. “If Peru make it to the World Cup we are going to go crazy.”

For the past four years the 29-year old who works in HR at NZ Fruits has lived more than 10,000 kilometres from the Peruvian capital Lima, her home city, but it has quelled none of her passion.

After captain Paolo Guerrero scored an equaliser against Colombia to send the Andean nation to this World Cup qualifying playoff she screamed so hard she could not speak for several days.

“I was screaming and crying ‘we are going to Wellington’ over and over. It was the most intense game I have watched.”

As the sole Peruvian living in Gisborne she had to watch the game by herself, but was one of 32 million Peruvians who celebrated harder than they had since 1982, the last time Peru made the World Cup.

She filmed herself watching the final moments of the game. Her reaction became a national sensation on social media and was even part of a commercial.

Standing in the way of football-mad Peru, ranked 10th in the world, are 122nd-ranked New Zealand.

Despite having star players, past Peruvian teams have been plagued by poor performances, bad team culture and a reputation for faltering on the big stage.

This time, things appear to be different.

“It is the first time in a long time we have had a good team,” Alva-Lopez said.

In the blood in Peru

Peruvians grow up playing football. In every town, no matter how small or economically-deprived, there is a football pitch.

If there is a big game on, work will finish early and the streets will be deserted.

“We love the emotion and drama. It is in our blood.

“My dad says I am not a lady when I watch football. I start swearing, I become really passionate, then after the game I become a lady again.”

Several hundred Peruvians live permanently in New Zealand, with an additional 100 working holiday visas issued each year.

Alva-Lopez is the only Peruvian in Gisborne, but she is part of a strong South American community including Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Colombians and Uruguayans.

It is normally a lengthy process for Peruvians to visit New Zealand but just for this game Immigration New Zealand expedited the process, allowing travel visas to be processed online for the special occasion.

Alva-Lopez said she hoped the game would help grow relations between the two countries.

“There are communities in Auckland, Queenstown and Wellington, and for the game some are coming over from Peru, and a lot are coming from Australia, Singapore, Japan and other countries.”

Football New Zealand chief executive Andy Martin’s comments that New Zealanders should make Peruvians feel unwelcome here were quite hurtful and not well received back home, she said.

“He generalised about us badly. Football is competitive, but it should be a big party that brings the two sides together.

“We have been really pushing for Peruvians coming here to be respectful.”

Wellington promises to turn into a little bit of Lima for the night with two nightclubs hosting Peruvian parties featuring Peruvian DJs, and several restaurants preparing Peruvian food for the occasion.

Alva-Lopez said it was hard to predict the outcome, especially after captain Paolo Guerrero was ruled out of the game for failing a drug test.

“All I can say is Paolo scored the goal against Colombia to get us here, so we will take him to the World Cup.”

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