terça-feira, 24 de março de 2009

A Dangerous Game


Larry J. Pitman

I slid into the taxi, adjusted my seat belt and asked the driver, “Is Universitario going to win tonight?” What I got for my short taxi ride was an animated discussion in very rapid Spanish about the trials and tribulations of being a fan of the Lima football club Universitario. He said that he was often frustrated in the past, but now they have got things together, and he was very hopeful for a win in the important game tonight against a team from Mexico. I listened with great sympathy to his diatribe and even threw in a few comments of my own. I have had many such conversations in the time I have been living in Peru.

Am I an expert on Peruvian football? No, not exactly.
Then, what was really going on? Well, Shortly after I arrived in Peru, I realized that I could connect with a lot of people (usually men) if I could talk about what was going on with football (soccer) in Peru. So every day for four years I have faithfully read the sports pages and kept up on what was happening. I have also been tutored by Luis Sanjines, a former star player and still a referee who sometimes drives for our family. Luis is extremely intelligent, has an encyclopedic memory and loves the game, but with a realistic eye. Luis has filled me in on a lot of the historical perspective of the game.
More than just connecting with other people, football has also given me a wonderful chance to practice my Spanish.
The taxi ride mentioned above is a good example. I get an instant lesson in listening to rapid Spanish spoken by a native. So for five soles (about U.S. 1.50) I get a ride and a free Spanish lesson. I’d say that is a bargain.
There is a downside to all this. Unknowingly I put myself in jeopardy.
When I first arrived in Peru, I thought that my wife’s family were fans ( hinchas in Spanish) of Universitario. So I decided that it might be a good idea to root for that club and keep family harmony. It turned out that I was wrong. There was a family split and a good number were supporters of Alianza Lima, bitter rivals of Universitario. So my conversation about the successes of La Crema (as Universatrio are known) met with a stony silence from some members of the family.
I was considering telling everybody that gringos are neutral when I thought of a completely new way to deal with the problem.

I looked for another Peruvian team that I really like and now started rooting for them.
Go Santos! Go San Martin!

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