Football is Peru’s sport of passion, closely followed by women’s volleyball, at which they are remarkably good, often contending at the very top international levels. After roughly 30 years of disappointment, Peru has hopes that its young new football team might make it through to the finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Bullfighting has a strong heritage both in Lima and small Andean villages.
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Peru’s major sport is football and you’ll find men and boys playing it in the streets of every city, town and settlement in the country down to the remotest of jungle outposts. The big teams are Cristal, Alianza and El U in Lima and Ciencianco from Cusco. The “Classic” game is between Alianza, the poor man’s team from the La Victoria suburb of Lima, and El U (“U” from “Universitario”), generally supported by the middle class. To get a flavour for just how popular football is in Peru try a visit to the Estadio Restaurant in Lima, which has great murals, classic team shirts and life-size models of the world’s top players.
Volleyball (vóley) is a very popular sport in Peru, particularly for women. The national team frequently reach World Cup and Olympic finals, and they are followed avidly on TV. Even in remote villages, most schools have girls’ volleyball teams. For more information, check out vivevoley.com.
Although bullfighting is under threat from the pro-animal lobby, and has diminished significantly in popularity in the twenty-first century, in many coastal and mountain haciendas (estates), bullfights are still often held at fiesta times. In a less organized way they happen at many of the village fiestas, too – often with the bull being left to run through the village until it’s eventually caught and mutilated by one of the men. This is not just a sad sight, it can also be dangerous for unsuspecting tourists who happen to wander into a seemingly evacuated village. The Lima bullfights in October (see Fun with fountains), in contrast, are a very serious business; even Hemingway was impressed.