Superfans urge on Peru in quest for World Cup berth

By Monica Martinez

Lima, Jun 4 (EFE).- Back by popular demand, the superfans of the La Blanquirroja supporters group are doing all they can to help the Peruvian national soccer team secure the final South American berth for World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

La Blanquirroja (The Red and White), founded 14 years ago with a mission to make the Peru side feel at home wherever they play, is made up of expatriates.

“For these Peruvians who spend a lot of time outside the country, the national team is their connection to Peru, it’s their relationship to what they have lived, to their childhood, to the country where they were born” La Blanquirroja director Jair Villanueva told Efe.

The group came together in 2008 as Peru was in the midst of what would turn out to be a 36-year-long World Cup drought, and received an infusion of new members when the team qualified for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Villanueva recalled the camaraderie among the many Peruvians who traveled to Russia four years ago to watch their heroes compete in the World Cup for the first time in a generation.

Peru shut out Paraguay 2-0 in March to finish fifth in South America and give themselves a chance to reach the World Cup via a playoff.

Shortly after the final whistle, La Blanquirroja began making preparations to support the side at a June 5 friendly against New Zealand in Barcelona and the June 13 playoff in Doha against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.

The roughly 200 members of the group are busy rehearsing musical numbers, sorting out the logistics of travel and lodging in Spain and Qatar, and requesting permits from the authorities for rallies and events.

“It’s incredible that we are now ‘at the gates’ of possibly qualifying for a second consecutive World Cup,” Villanueva said.

“We do everything we can as fans and we know, because we have contact with the footballers, that they are very committed,” he said.

With nearly a million followers on social media, Villanueva said that La Blanquirroja is a “fist” enclosing and shielding the national team “against any bad moment, any harsh criticism, or bad result.” EFE mmr/dr

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