18 diciembre, 2010


1971: The Little School and the Tiebreaker Match


Two days before Tuesday, April 13, 1971, at the Stadium Vivero Forestal of Chimbote, and against all odds, the Red Devils of Chiclín (a town in Trujillo, Perú) defeated my local soccer team, José Gálvez Football Club (José Gálvez FBC) of Chimbote, Perú by one to zero.

That match should have been the last of the 1971 regional stages of the Perú Cup, but the Trujillan team’s victory allowed them to equal my local team’s number of points on the standings table.

For this reason, on Tuesday, April 13, 1971, a tiebreaker match was required. And the venue chosen was a neutral one: the Stadium “Lolo” Fernández of Universitario de Deportes Club in Lima.

In 1971 I was ten years old and a fifth grader attending the Public Primary School for Boys No. 3151 of the San Isidro barrio of Chimbote, Perú.

The school was located on the fourteenth block of Avenida Aviación, just a hundred meters away from my house.

That Tuesday, April 13, 1971, I was not very happy. It was a school day and I was not going to be able to listen to the radio broadcast of the match coming from Lima.

Those were times when students attended school in double session. We went to classes in the morning, came back home for lunch at noon time, and then returned to school in the afternoon.

Reluctantly, that afternoon, I walked back to school.

But some great news was waiting for me at school: one of the teachers had brought a battery powered radio and, apparently, was preparing to furtively listen to the match.

Sitting at my desk I found that paying attention to my teacher Rómulo Salazar Silva was not an easy task. My enthusiasm for the game was consuming me.

That year it was never easy to pay attention to the teacher anyway, because my class met in a large room at the entrance of the school. Next to us in the same room, on our right side, without any dividing wall or partition, was Ms Eva Carbajal de García’s second grade class. The sounds of both classes were always mingling with each other.

At approximately 3.30 p.m. I noticed that another teacher came into my classroom and quietly said something to my teacher. I had no doubt that he said, "the soccer match has already begun."

Indeed, in Lima, the decided match for a place in Lima’s 1971 Grand Final of the Perú Cup had begun. And people were wondering which team would join the other five ones already qualified: Mariano Melgar of Arequipa, Unión Tumán of Chiclayo, CNI of Iquitos, Cienciano of Cuzco, and Social Deportivo Huando of Huaral.

At my elementary school in 1971 the classroom next to mine, on the left side of the school, was Mr. Segundo Fermín Orbegoso Luján’s third grade. Then came Ms Alicia Rodríguez de Alegre’s classroom who taught first grade to my younger brother Alberto and other kids from my neighborhood.

The elegant and attractive teacher Ms Rodríguez was teaching the first letters of the alphabet, unaware that Christmas of 1971 would never come for her because on Christmas Eve, death would be waiting for her on one of the city roads of Caraz, Ancash.

Turning back to Tuesday April 13, 1971, the soccer match being played in Lima was more than a game. It was a battle. The Red Devils of Chiclín were a team with more pedigree than José Gálvez FBC. And the match was a showdown between the Trujillans’ experience and the youth of my local team.

On that day, sitting at my school desk, I pretended to be listening to my teacher. But my real interest was in knowing whether any news would come from that blessed battery-powered radio which was whispering the match in Ms Elcira Guzman’s fourth grade room. This classroom was located on the right side of the school, diagonally opposite from my classroom.

My school was a modest building, made mostly of posts and esteras (hand woven reeds), and had no sixth grade. The students who reached the fifth grade were then distributed to other schools in the surrounding neighborhoods.

In Lima, meanwhile, towards the first half of the game, the experience of the Red Devils had the upper hand over the initial nervousness of the Red Stripe team (José Gálvez FBC). The Chimbotan team was getting cornered in their defensive position.

Outside of school that day there didn’t seem to be much movement in the street. From time to time, the old cars of the “Colectivo” No. 2 passenger service went down Avenida Aviación. They came from the Urbanización El Carmen and went to the center of Chimbote, while other clunkers from the same service were making their way back.

In Lima, the battle continued. Three powerful shots from the Trujillians’ best player, the center forward Carlos Chirinos, crashed into the timbers of the “Galvista” goal. The Chimbotan goalkeeper Sebastián "Cheva" Mantilla was already completely beaten and could not block the shots.

Near the school, alfalfa and corn leaf vendors, unaware of the drama unfolding on the radio, ended their daily sales at the neighboring Market 21 de Abril. They casually returned to the farms of the barrio 2 de Mayo in carts pulled by donkeys, passing along Huáscar Street at the side of the schoolhouse.

In the second half of the match, the José Gálvez FBC improved its game, playing the ball nicely and developing its style of short passes and deep triangulations. The Chimbotan’s "Jogo Bonito" (“beautiful play”) began to confound the Trujillans, who also began to be overcome by the stamina of the younger team.

Across from the school, on the other side of Avenida Aviación, stood Urbanización 21 de Abril’s "La Pampa" soccer field. In 1971 the old dirt soccer grounds were no longer the setting for those memorable soccer games between the best teams of Chimbote’s barrios. On this piece of land the new facility for the high school Santa María Reyna had just begun to be built.

In Lima the match was about to end. The score remained nil-nil and the final moments were filled with drama. With two minutes left to the final whistle, the Chimbotan team charged and scored a goal. Referee Carlos Rivera initially called “goal”, but then called it back on the advice of assistant referee Ernesto de la Fuente, who argued that the goal was illegally scored.

The enraged Gálvez struck again.

In the vicinity of both the schoolhouse and "La Pampa", there was a famous bar called "The Carnations", which patrons and characters of all sorts knew by the fearsome name of "El Frontón”. And in front of it, in a corner of the Market 21 de Abril, stood the newly relocated Chimbote prison.

Among the daily customers to "El Frontón" was "Auntie Sarandonga". It was then early days in the life of "Auntie Sara", and she had not yet discovered the inspirational power of the union workers battle cry "the people united will never be defeated" (Many years later "Auntie Sarandonga", or simply "Auntie Sara", became a popular union demonstrator in the streets of Chimbote)

Pieces of music from the old jukebox in “El Frontón” were heard at school, trickling between the estera walls into the classrooms. Recurrently, José Feliciano’s plaintive voice would sing to us that the day before he had visited Sing Sing prison, and in one of its solitary cells a death row inmate knelt to the Redeemer.

Verses from "The Sing Sing Prison” also penetrated into the overcrowded Prison of Chimbote, where the legendary predators “El Pichuzo" and "El Tarrata" were purging their terrible crimes.

In Lima, a few seconds before the end of the match, José Gálvez FBC attacked. From the left corner Alfredo “Ugly” Gonzales sent a measured ball into the “fire area” (penalty area). Alejandro "Cassareto" Luces saw the ball coming, jumped higher than the Red Devils defense, connected a header, and ... GOAL!

At school the goal cry silenced the classes in progress, and the school principal, Don Felipe Gonzales Olivera, gave us a brief time off in order to give free rein to joy.

The Red Stripe team won the match and gave Chimbote many moments of indescribable joy. And all of this happened less than a year after the earthquake of May 31, 1970 that devastated our port city and our region.

Well, I have said in previous writings that in August of this year I went to Perú and visited Chimbote.

Being back in my barrio, I decided to take a look at the site of the little school of my childhood.

In fact, 1971 was the last year that my school was open. In 1972 the little school was merged into the Urbanización 21 de Abril “B” Mixed Elementary School No. 89007. And since then the school premises have become San Isidro’s local community center.

I walked the hundred meters between the house where I was born and the little school of my childhood. Once there, a lock on the building prevented me from walking inside the premises. And so I looked inward through an iron window on the right side of the door.

Behind me, to the left, stood the church San Francisco de Asís, and to my right the high school Santa María Reyna.

Inside San Isidro’s community center everything looked empty, and I could no longer see my elementary school friends Arcadio Villanueva Díaz, Guillermo Quezada Tapia, Elmer Laureano Cornelio, Noel Palacios Baltodano, and César Segundo Del Río Vásquez, or the other neighborhood kids attending classes barefoot like me.

And I also could not see the patriarchal and honorable image of the school principal, Don Felipe Gonzales Olivera.

Instead, in that emptiness I saw the spectral strength of five pillars supporting the concrete roof of the building that in the bygone days was made out of esteras.

And bouncing between the columns, I could still hear the endless echo of a play-by-play announcer, shouting from a battery powered radio, the goal that Alejandro "Cassareto" Luces scored in the final minute of the tiebreaker match.

My mind was filled with images of the afternoon of Tuesday, April 13, 1971.

I filled up my lungs with air.

And I walked back the hundred meters that separate my home from the little school.

Along the way, I decided to write this story.

And I walked back the hundred meters that separate my home from the
little school”(Source: © 2010 Google. Courtesy of Miguel Koo Chía)

New Hampshire, USA
December 2010

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3 comentarios:

  1. Wow daddy! I loved your story sooo much! It was SO COOL how Jose Galvez won! Im so impressed and proud of your awesome story!!!

  2. Hi Eduardo, Excellent story. I can just see you as a small boy,walking to school with a heavy heart, because you wanted to listen to the game and then getting the excitement that you felt when you realized that a radio had been brought in so you actually could. You really make it so the reader feels as though they are there. Keep up the good work!!

  3. Hi Eduardo,
    I'm not really a football (soccer) fan, but your narrative even got a few tears out of me. While reading your article, memories lived in Chimbote by my husband Alberto, and told to me by him many years ago, came to my mind together with the memories that you mention in your piece from when you were 10 years old.

    As a narrator, you know how to convey to the very soul of the reader the "drama" that you went through on 13th of April 1971. As if the reader were present, going through the same things that you went through ... The football game suspense ( which lasted three days ) and even more, being one of the teams from Chimbote . The great relief came when they finally did win!
    Your piece helped me to understand why this day is significant for you. Congratulations!

    Astrid (Berlin, Germany)