02 abril, 2011

SNEAKING INTO THE STADIUM IN THE '70s

SNEAKING INTO THE STADIUM IN THE '70s

BY: EDUARDO QUEVEDO SERRANO

Neither pride, nor regret.
It’s just that kids are children of their own reality.” (eqs)


Chimbote, Perú
Things were different back in the ‘70s. Chimbote was the first fishing port in the world, and its days were always sunny. We exported music across Latin America, and the ballads were just starting to be slow danced (not like the more formal “bolero” dancing our parents did). Chimbote’s stony hills were kind, and when you shouted "hello!" from the barrios, the hills returned the greeting in the form of an echo. Our sports were competitive at the national level, and on Sundays we went to the stadium to see our local team, José Gálvez FBC, that had just brought professional soccer to Chimbote.

In that decade soccer confirmed its status as a "passion of the masses", and was the central point of our popular culture’s agenda on Sundays.

In 1970, José Gálvez FBC were champions in the league of Chimbote. In 1971 they advanced triumphantly to the Perú Cup and qualified for the elite Peruvian professional soccer league.  They remained at this level for three consecutive years, but in 1973 they no longer qualified for this category. When the team returned to the local league, they once again faced their legendary rivals, Deportivo Siderperú. They also took part in big matches against San Cristobal of Moro, Cultural Casma of Casma, America of Samanco, Deportivo Copes of Coishco, and Sport Ancash of Huaraz.

The '70s were undoubtedly different. The elders of today were the "chibolos" (kids) of that decade, "chibolos" that experienced the soccer matches of that time with intensity.

I remember that Chimbote had a wide group of people from every neighborhood who liked to go to the stadium every Sunday...but who didn’t always have money to buy their tickets, and well...I must confess that I was a regular member of this group. We had to be very "creative" in order to find alternative ways to watch the games. Some of these ways were aboveboard, but there were others that were not so much.

Reconstruction of Stadium Vivero Forestal after the earthquake
 of May 31, 1970 (Photo: Courtesy of Miguel Koo Chía)
In 1970 the stadium was destroyed by the earthquake of May 31st, and the matches were played "open doors" ... or rather I should say, there were no doors, so we were all welcome to the stadium. In the first half of 1971 the rebuilding of the stadium was completed, and the very best professional teams from all over the country began to arrive.

During the years 1971 and 1972 I entered the stadium on adult tickets that included free admission to a child not older than 11 or 12. What happened was that kids would wait near the gates, and study the faces of adults going into the stadium.  Whenever we saw a “good faced man", we grabbed him by the arm and said: "Sir, let me enter, yeah?"  Usually the adult would gladly help.

For example, in 1971 I first saw the "U" (a soccer team from Lima) play by getting in this way. I was 10 years old and it broke my heart seeing my two favorite teams getting ready to play against each other: the “Red Stripe” team (José Gálvez) and the “Cream Team” (the "U"). On that day the mythical Carlos "Pocho" Landa (leader and founder of the “Let’s go ‘U’” supporters club) arrived in Chimbote, and with him came a boisterous group from Lima. And I sat with them. I did it, I think, because the “Cream team” supporters had some pretty blonde girls dressed in miniskirts.

Stadium Vivero Forestal of Chimbote, 1971
(Photo: Courtesy of Miguel Koo Chía) 
Another way to get into the stadium in those days was by going in during "The Segundilla"--the 15 final minutes of the soccer match. The doors were opened, and people who had no money to buy their ticket were allowed to watch the end of the match for free. This way was not only very popular, but also the last resort for seeing a little something of what was happening inside the old stadium..

In 1973 I was turning thirteen, and was already a bit too big to try the “free entry with a grown-up for 11-12 year olds", but I persevered anyway. Sometimes it went well and sometimes it didn’t. 1973 was José Gálvez’s last year in the professional league, and for the "chibolos" of my generation, it was a year of "initiation" into other more adventurous ways to gain access into the stadium.

And that’s how, in a natural way, I started using the “climbing” method in its different versions, all of them with one thing in common: climbing the walls of the stadium. I, along with my brothers and other boys from my neighborhood, had a knotted rope that we used in order to climb the high walls of the stadium (especially the south wall).  Every Sunday our persistent "work" eroded the walls and dug some hollows that made climbing easier. Once at the top, you could either just sit on the wall, or lower yourself into the sports arena.

Coliseum Paul Harris’s northern wall. 1970s.
Another method was to pay a much cheaper price to go into the neighboring Coliseum Paul Harris (where teams played volleyball or basketball matches). Once inside, you could go through the large south stands to reach the very top of a wall that ended in a point. And from this point you could see the soccer match taking place in the neighboring stadium. However, only a few spectators could sit there because of the limited “seating capacity” on this part of the wall. Those who liked this location had to claim a spot several hours in advance. 

The walls of Coliseum Paul Harris "offered" yet another option, rather suicidal but frequently used nonetheless. The coliseum’s west wall was parallel to the soccer stadium’s east wall. The distance between one wall and the other was a step ... or a jump. And the tops of both walls were at dizzying heights. Before the jump, the recommendation was always the same: "Don’t look down!”

However, as if the sheer height wasn’t bad enough, there was also another mortal enemy.  His name was “Barabbas”.

"Barabbas" was a character in Chimbote during the '70s (and '80s) who keenly volunteered to keep rascals like us from sneaking in. With leash in hand he watched the stadium walls, and many "chibolos" of the '70s had a “taste” of his harshness. He was dark, about 40 years old, with curly hair and neglected beard, friendlier to alcohol than to personal hygiene. In addition, his jealous vigilance was not all civic; if you gave him some change, he’d turn a blind eye.

Stadium Vivero Forestal’s eastern wall. 1970s.
Returning to the knotted rope (and to the various climbing activities), there is something that we must mention for the benefit of the readers who would like more details. If you were sitting on top of a wall, and felt hungry, then the knotted rope "provided" extra help. The "Causera aunts" (ladies selling fish to eat) did not neglect their clients on top of the walls. From time to time these ladies passed by the walls on their laps around the stands.  From the top of the wall money would be sent down to them via the knotted rope, then the delicious “causa” (fish food) was sent back up the same way.

At this point in the story some readers may be wondering whether there were any policemen in the stadium. No doubt there were, and often we had to jump from the top of the wall out of, or into, the stadium, depending on which side the cops were coming from. Some of us also suffered minor beatings, but that came with the territory.  It helped that the police liked to watch soccer as much as us.  Thanks to their interest in the game, we had a better chance of sneaking in.

 Stadium, Coliseum Paul Harris, and surrounding areas
(Source: © 2011 Google
The mid-'70s provided me with a new way of watching the games. During my high school days in the GUE San Pedro of Chimbote, I met Martha Ortiz Ortega.  She was a good friend who lived across from the stadium, on the corner of Villavicencio Street and Unanue Lane. Martha's family, as well as all the other neighbors next to the stadium, had built elevated platforms on their roofs, and rented "seating" at a reasonable price. One day Martha told me, "Eduardo, instead of climbing your rope, come to my house on Sundays and I'm going to let you watch the games.”  After that I visited Martha regularly.

Now if the question is whether I ever paid for my tickets in the ‘70s, the answer is of course I did...but not always.  Also, during the second half of the '70s we persuaded my father that not everything should be work, so he started visiting this thing called “Stadium”, and with him we entered through the right door. And, if the question is whether I hold any memories of this part of the '70s the answer is certainly yes, I do remember many things.

For example, I recall a fierce match between José Gálvez and Siderperú where the orange team’s (Siderperú’s) striker Hernán "Mono" Capurro broke the Galvista central back José Ormeño’s leg. In another heated match, the orange midfielder Rodomiro Del Solar was expelled from the soccer field, and he reacted by attacking the referee with a dirty tackle. Then, the linesman, Don Marcos Llempén, came to the aid of his colleague and sank the stick of the corner flag into Rodomiro Del Solar’s lower abdomen.  Del Solar was taken away by the police and later suspended from playing soccer for many months.

The stadium’s neighboring houses
(Photo: Courtesy of Miguel Koo Chía)
From both the heights of the stadium walls, and the roof of Martha’s house, I remember having the chance to see the whole colorful spectacle brought on by the old rivalry between Gálvez and Siderperú. Don Teodosio Principe Herrera, the legendary "Lame Talara", would lead the Galvista fans in the east stands. Deportivo Siderperú’s entrance to the soccer field would be met with the taunting notes of a Galvista supporter playing the trumpet solo “El Gato Montés” (“The Wildcat”), most commonly heard at bullfights. "Lame Talara", at the top of the stands, would parody a bullfight using orange colored painted bull horns. Cries of "Olé!" coming from the Galvista fans were heard throughout the stadium. Fireworks detonated in the air. The orange team’s supporters from the north and the preferential stands were not intimidated, but responded to the "butchers" (Galvistas) by hurling abuse. 
*For the benefit of readers outside Chimbote we should note that Galvista fans always teased the orange team and supporters by calling them “cachudos” (cuckolded, or cheated on)And in latino culture, horns are associated with being “cachudos”.

Since then several decades have passed. It is winter here in New Hampshire as I write these lines. As I do every winter, I go up on my roof to clear the snow. While I laboriously climb every rung of the ladder, this story’s knotted rope tends to reappear again and again in my mind.  I remember how swiftly I could reach the top of the tall stadium walls. Inevitably comes the thought: indeed, the '70s were other times.

PS: My daughter Dorothy Elsa (12 years old) will read these lines, and ask me what I got up to in Chimbote at the same age, and I’m going to need answers. Suggestions and comments are welcome...!


New Hampshire, USA
March 2011


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2 comentarios:

  1. Another great read Eduardo, You can really bring a person right into your world. Keep up the good work. Very entertaining, and also very important for Dorothy to know how her father lived life, to the fullest, as we all should do!

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  2. Daddy,
    I think that I would've done the same thing... If I grew up in Chimbote! This is so cool because even though we are very different now, I guess you were alot like me when you were younger :)
    DoRoThY❀

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