This past weekend Chris Brown, our interpreter and I had the distinct pleasure of attending a professional futbol game at Unsa stadium in downtown Arequipa. The game took place on a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon. People were showing up from about 12:30 and were visibly excited for the game.
At precisely 1:15 PM the game started with a bang. Confetti rained down and fireworks filled the air. The ball was dropped and with a flurry of fancy footwork the game had begun. Both teams were hungry and the action was fierce. The Arequipan fans were very enthusiastic. They had brought decorations including banners, stadium sized ribbons and they filled the air with songs accompanied by a raft of musical instruments.
One of the most interesting differences between attending a game in Canada and a game in Peru was that the Peruvians focused on internal security rather than perimeter security. In Canada, even before you get to the ticket takers, a spectator is subject to a search of his/her person and their things. The stadium personnel are looking for contraband (alcohol, drugs, weapons) as well as anything that could be thrown at players/officials (and affect stadium concession sales) such as water bottles, coke cans etc. These items are confiscated before you can enter the stadium. However, in Arequiepa, this was a foreign concept. Spectators are actually expected to bring in their own drinks and snacks, meaning that there was only an incredibly limited selection of concessions available. This was a disappointment as I was looking forward to purchasing a team jersey.
One of the other strange developments that came from this security environment is that certain fans were lighting off fireworks in the stands. These were large pyrotechnics and after about the 5th one, riot police showed up in the section where they were going off to stop the explosions. (note the police in the wings)
The riot police also showed up about 5 minutes before both half time and full time. This was to escort the much-abused referees out of the stadium without them being assaulted by the fans.
Our group ended up getting seated in the same area as the players wives, which ended up being a pretty boring section. It looked as though they were more interested in their phones than the game. But the cool thing was, that when the players were heading off the pitch, they all came by our area to wave and preen.
The game was fairly exciting with Arequipa taking an early lead. Then in the second half, we noticed a condor circling the field. It looked as though the bird was watching the game. Our interpreter Adriana, said that when this happens it’s a good omen for the team. As she told Chris and I the story, we missed the tying goal. Lima had come back!
However, about 3 minutes later, the bird came back around and Arequipa was awarded a penalty kick. The forward took it and …. GOAL!!!!!
The score remained 2-1 Arequipa until full time so I guess the bird legend stands…. for now 🙂