I was all set to write this great blog about how sports unite people from all over the globe and compare it to the universal language of hospitality. Then the Peru versus Argentina soccer match ended in a tie and ruined everything. Let me explain ...
After an 11-hour travel day on my way to attend the South American Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference, I walked out of Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, Peru, around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night to a throng of screaming Peruvians. I couldn’t tell if they were protesting or if they were there to see a celebrity. Either way I scurried past the hustle and bustle and corralled a crazy cab driver to haul me to the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center.
As we pulled into the porte-cochère, we were welcomed by another mass of people holding signs and chanting; this time the group was held back by police with shields. Some people slipped by police and made their way to the lobby only to be turned around by hotel security.
Minutes later a bus arrived, and from the bus emerged a number of gentleman dressed from head to toe in blue and white Adidas track suits. A few stopped to sign autographs, and I overheard someone identify them as the Argentina national futbol team. I meandered through the chaos to the front desk, where the pleasant clerk checked me in and apologized for the frenzy.
The next morning I met with the hotel’s GM, and he was able to clarify the previous night’s events. Apparently, Argentina and Peru were set to square off in a hotly contested 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifying match the next day and the visiting Argentinean team was staying at the hotel. Not being a soccer fan myself, he informed me that the world’s best soccer player, Leo Messi, led the Argentinean team and—while some of the crowd was there to taunt the visiting team—most were there to catch a glimpse or perhaps an autograph of Messi.
He also gave me some background: Peru’s futbol team has had its challenges, to say the least, but had a surprising win over Venezuela the previous week and now Peru’s fans were primed for an upset over heavily-favored Argentina.
We also discussed the challenges that come with hosting VIP guests such as a futbol team; how managing the extra security and keeping communication open with the team to ensure their safety was of utmost importance.
Throughout the day, Peruvians lined the closed streets surrounding the hotel. Children kicked soccer balls in the street, adults blew air horns and started chants, and nearby construction workers spent their lunch break awaiting the emergence of the Argentinean team. Some locals pushed their way into the lobby, and security was challenged with keeping non-guests corralled in the lobby while allowing guests and conference-goers free reign of the area. I can’t think of a group that would command such attention in the U.S.—Lady Gaga and her little monsters, perhaps?
Truth be told, the atmosphere was electric, and I found myself anticipating the match more and more as the day went on.
After a long day of educational sessions, presentations, interviews and story-writing, game time neared. I decided to find a local pub and cheer on Peru (I’ve always gravitated toward the underdog).
The atmosphere in Meriflores, Lima’s coastal district, was awesome. Locals poured into the streets, wearing jester hats, blowing air horns and chanting. I found a seat in the back of a pub with a TV projected onto an entire wall and shared a cold cerveza with some new amigos.
Shockingly, Peru jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and the place went nuts. I speak very little Spanish, and nobody around me spoke English, but the “high-five” proved to be universal.
Then, Argentina tied the score just before the half-time interval.
The second half was dominated by Peru; a handful of shots were deflected by the goalkeeper or bounced off the goal post. The entire place was on the edge of their seats awaiting a miracle.
But then the unthinkable happened: It just ended. No overtime. No extra innings. No shootout. Just a 1-1 tie.
As the kids say: whomp, whomp.
Everyone shuffled out, and I grabbed a cab back to my hotel. The driver was mostly somber as he listened to post-game talk radio. A “hold” was good for the Peru team—they live to fight another day in their quest for World Cup qualification—but it could have been a David verus Goliath story.
And today I’m headed back to the United States with the same contempt for soccer I had before. There are no ties in life, and there should be no ties in sport. For a moment, I felt connected with local Peruvians, ready to praise the hospitality industry for providing a platform for global bonding.
Ties ruin everything.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.