Wednesday 14 December 2022, 07:00

Claudio Pizarro: “We love football in Peru, so reaching a World Cup for the first time in 36 years was very special.”

“Many people sold a lot of stuff in Peru so they could go to the World Cup. It was a very special moment. We are absolutely crazy about football. We love football, so reaching a World Cup for the first time in 36 years was very special.” In a time marked by conflicts and global crises, the world is divided. But through the power of football, the FIFA World CupTM will bring people together, allowing them to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World is a new global movement that will inspire, unite and drive development through football, with FIFA Legends sharing stories of how football has united their respective nations in times of uncertainty. So, in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we caught up with Claudio Pizarro to hear about his memories.

Claudio Pizarro is an institution in himself in Peruvian football. As a former Peru captain and the fifth-highest international goalscorer in Peruvian history, Pizarro is one of Peru’s greatest footballing exponents overseas, having acquired legendary status at European giants Bayern Munich. Despite winning 85 caps and scoring 20 goals for his country, the ex-Bayern star retired from international football in 2016 without a single World Cup appearance to his name. Even so, he had played a key role in Peru’s progression, which culminated in their return to the global showpiece in 2018. “It was very special for all Peruvians because we’d been working and aspiring to achieve this objective of qualifying for a World Cup for so many years, and we achieved it. And just look at all the dedicated Peru fans that went to the World Cup, they were the best fans there.” Failing to qualify for the previous eight editions of the World Cup brought so much pain to Peru’s players and fans over so many years, but that all changed when the nation booked their place at Russia 2018.

FUTW Claudio Pizarro 2 (011122)

“We are crazy about football and we always watch the World Cup. It was hard to see Peru fail to qualify [for the tournament] for such a long time because Peruvian footballers have got so much ability and quality.” The experience did not go as well as he had hoped. Following 1-0 defeats by both Denmark and France in their opening two matches, Peru were eliminated before the final round of group games, eventually bowing out of the tournament on a high with a 2-0 victory over Australia in their third and final fixture. But what mattered most was Peru dining at the top table in world football again — an experience that will long remain etched in the memories of Pizarro and his compatriots. “Hearing the Peruvian national anthem at the World Cup again made people very emotional. It’s something I don’t think we’ll ever forget.”