London, July 7th
As I checked in at Heathrow, I was informed that the flight was overbooked and offered £200 and a guaranteed flight 24 hours later. What would you do?
Well I didn’t. Determined to get to Peru as soon as I could, and to stick to my impossible schedule, I was on the plane. ✈
Lima, July 8th
Some 24 hours later after a stop at Sao Paulo’s airport I arrived in Lima. Following on from all the hype and glamour surrounding Euro 2004, I entered the airport and looked for some sign of football. In the distance I could see a small stand being set up, with some leaflets, all of course in Spanish, (well we are in a different country/continent). but the words Copa America were quite clear, and it was an indication that I was in the right place. I didn’t realise at the time, but I guess this was my first experience of Peruvian mañana. As there they were the day after Peru had played in the opening game of the tournament in Lima, and they were just getting ready.
Arriving at midday and feeling like s…p. Having left work at 3.30 the previous day and headed straight for the plane at 10 p. m. that evening. Now I just wanted to get into town to find my accommodation, and sort out my match tickets that had been booked over the internet.
Once again faced with a choice, I took the one that most people wouldn’t have. I could have jumped in a taxi and gone straight to my accommodation in the centre of town for a measly $10 or I could pretend I knew what I was doing, march straight past all those taxi drivers who were rubbing their hands in glee and head off to join the mass of people flagging down collectivos (local minibuses) with the names of the roads they were going down written on the side and someone hanging out the door urging you to join the other 30 people packed in there already. Inviting.
After spending some time watching this ritual I conceded defeat and asked for some help. I was soon bundled in with my luggage, which weighed all of 7kg (I have done this before). No sooner had I settled down to take in the scenery …dried out river bed, horse and carts, lots more collectivos and thousands of taxis and a road that must have been built by the romans as we continued straight on. Than I was out again, with my saviour crossing the highway one way and then the other in a bid to get me where I thought I wanted to be. He then hailed down a large American gas guzzler going past . It already had 8 people in it. He ushered me into the front and paid my fare. I arrived at my destination, downtown Lima some 90 minutes after landing. Remembering that the reason I had chosen this particular spot was for the finest football bar in Lima, I immediately surveyed the scene. Looking round San Martin square I could see no obvious sign of it. Scaffolding was being erected in the central square – maybe for some grandstand and screens to be erected to watch the football I naively thought.
Out of nowhere a small Peruvian came up to me and asked where I was from and pointed to the statue in the centre of the square telling me that would be what I was looking for. As soon as I mentioned what I was actually looking for he showed remarkable enthusiasm for the subject and soon we were were sitting in the bar swopping details about National teams.
Having told him I had flown from London he expected me to trade information about the England side, trying to explain to him that I was actually Scottish and then give details of the side to him to him proved increasingly difficult, as it has been for Berti McVogts.
I quickly learnt about the Peru side, the favoured line up and formations, but each time I mentioned a Scottish player, he hadn’t heard of them. So there I was extolling the virtues of England! He was supplying all the positive comments while I threw in the doubts. James In goal, Owen’s lack of confidence, Erikkson’s management of the team whilst on the pitch, and If the Neville’s can play for England so can you!
After my first taste of Peruvian food where I carefully checked the menu to avoid coy, guinea pig a national speciality. We set off to pick up my match tickets from Saga Falabella a national store, (similar to Debenhams) who were acting as a sales point for the tickets. Arriving at the store we found a long queue of people waiting patiently. Observing this for a minute I noticed they were all clutching a small strip of white paper. My guide who I had now establishes was called Peter, would you believe it a Peruvian with an English name! Went to the security guard at the entrance and explained that I was from Scotland (!) and had booked my tickets on the Internet, and would like to collect them. We were asked to wait and after five minutes we jumped the queue. I could feel the daggers in my back as we walked in and I was careful not to look back at the frustrated punters who waited not so patiently outside.
Inside the store two girls sat under a Copa America banner with one till and an old style printer behind them. I handed over my receipts for all my tickets, the girls looked at them as if they had never seen anything like this before. David, my guide, (I never could remember names) explained what I had tried to, but got exactly the same incredulous look. The long list of games took some believing in themselves, and they carefully studied this impossible schedule and pointed out (quite rightly ) that one of the games had already taken place. I interjected and explained that was how long I had been waiting and that if they continued I would miss the next three weeks as well. of course I explained politely and they didn’t understand. By this time another security guard came over and asked what the problem was. He understood the situation immediately and once again explained it to the assistants.
They took no notice of him and said that I should come back tomorrow (mañana dos). I explained to the security guard that I was due in Arequipa the next day in order to see Paraguay v Costa Rica & Brazil v Chile and was leaving Lima early in the morning. He understood my predicament and insisted that the assistants help, today. They were clearly upset and then phoned, obviously to find out how to obtain these tickets that had been booked on the internet.
Outside the queue had turned into a mob and they were letting their feelings be known. Thankfully I understood nothing that was being shouted in my general direction, but i did see mounted police controlling the crowd and photographers in the midst of the melee. The security guard returned to say that I should come and see him before I left the store………for my own safety.
I had been here for ½ hour, and had nothing to show for it. Eventually the assistants had the printer working. A very old printer reminiscent of the vidi-printer it spluttered into life after a couple of minutes and then I heard the sound of paper caught in the machine. Sure enough my tickets were being printed…. all on the one ticket. Panic from the assistants and another crisis. Once more they were on the phone as they found out how to recreate my tickets that had just been eaten alive.
Outside the crowd were being kept at bay by mounted police with truncheons drawn, after over an hour and my tickets in hand I departed via the rear entrance. The papers the next day showed photos off the incidents outside as they claimed tremendous interest in the tournament was starting riots for tickets!