The collective sigh of disbelief and disappointment seemed deafening and debilitating for a couple seconds, during Peru’s World Cup opener against Denmark June 16, but then Peruvian fans realized they — and, most importantly, Christian Cueva and the rest of their team — needed to overcome the disheartenment and and regain their focus, their collaborative spirit and their intense hunger for victory.
And so the fans began cheering and chanting to support the young man who just blew a penalty kick that they expected him to convert to give them a 1-0 lead in the country’s first World Cup match since 1982 (in which they were eliminated without winning any of their three matches). That was nearly a decade before that Cueva was even born.
Soon the crowd roared: “Cueva, Cueva, Cueva …” With 45 minutes remaining in the match and astute appreciation of the fact that dwelling in disappointment wasn’t going to help them achieve their dream of enjoying a victorious World Cup, the Peruvian fans bounced back from the botched penalty with tremendous vigor.
I’ve seen a lot of so-called “soccer madness” but this was something special. Never before had I witnessed such relentless soccer support. It distracted me from the game. It warmed my heart. I had to fight back tears. This what they mean when by supporting their team en las buenas y las malas. This is the beautiful game. This is the World Cup.