Episode 15: Nuestro Naranjito

Classifying for the World Cup is an emotional roller coaster for most soccer fans, but in 2018, that was especially true for Peruvians, who hadn’t seen their country compete on the world stage in over three decades. What did it take for Peru to qualify for the biggest event in world soccer? Peruvian fan and writer Toño Angulo Daneri believes it might have all boiled down to an unlikely good luck charm: his 4-year-old son’s favorite toy.

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Transcript

Martina: In June of 2018, 32 teams from around the world met in Russia to face off for the biggest competition in soccer… or as it’s known in Latin America and much of the rest of the world: “fútbol.” The competition was the World Cup, or la Copa Mundial. Peruvian writer and journalist Toño Angulo Daneri hadn’t seen his country play since 1982, when he was just 12-years old.

Toño: Ese año la Copa Mundial fue en España. En el Perú, para cada partido había una gran reunión familiar. Reíamos y comíamos mucho. La televisión nos hipnotizaba.

Martina: Peru tied its first game against Cameroon, and then again against the powerhouse team from Italy. Peru’s third game, against Poland, would define whether they’d go on to the next round. Peru lost five to one.

Toño: Perder 5 a 1 contra Polonia era como volver de un mundo feliz y lleno de color a un país gris y triste. Además, la situación en el Perú estaba difícil: comenzaba una década de terrorismo, bombas y casi 70 mil muertes.

Martina: Little did Toño know then that he’d have to wait 36 years before he’d get to cheer for Perú in another World Cup. For Toño, it’s clear what ended his country’s decades-long losing streak...

Toño: Naranjito: el juguete favorito de mi hijo.

Martina: His son’s favorite toy.

Toño: Y claro que sí, lo llevé a Rusia conmigo.

Martina: Welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast — I’m your host Martina Castro. Each episode we bring you fascinating first-person stories from Spanish speakers across the world. The storyteller will be using intermediate Spanish and I will be chiming in for context, in English. But these are not language lessons, they're real life lessons through language.

Martina: Toño has a theory as to why fútbol fans love the sport so much.

Toño: Primero, es increíble ver cómo los jugadores controlan la pelota con los pies. En otros deportes, como el béisbol y el básquetbol, se juega con las manos. No es tan difícil controlar una pelota con las manos. ¿Pero con los pies? Eso es muy difícil.

Martina: Second, and maybe more importantly, in a continent historically poor and governed by corrupt politicians...

Toño: … el fútbol nos pone al mismo nivel de los países más poderosos.

Martina: On a soccer pitch you can see Mexico beat the United States… Or Argentina, which lost a war over the Falkland Islands with England, beat their former enemy.

Toño: Es solo una ilusión, sí. Pero el fútbol se trata sobre todo de eso: de ilusiones.

Martina: Which brings us to the biggest deal in fútbol: the World Cup. It’s played every four years with 32 teams from all over the globe.

Toño: La Copa Mundial es muy importante. Más de mil millones de personas miraron la final del 2014.

Martina: Yes, over 1 billion people. Compare that to the Super Bowl of 2018, just over 100 million people watched that game.

Toño: Solo los mejores equipos juegan en la Copa Mundial. Los países tienen que competir en campeonatos regionales para clasificar.

Martina: And historically, Peru has had a really hard time even qualifying.

Toño: Para Perú clasificar es muy inusual. Pero cuando pasa, es extraordinario. La última vez que pasó fue en el Mundial de España del año 1982… y todavía lo recordamos.

Martina: Every four years since he was a kid, Toño thinks back on that 1982 World Cup in Spain. As soon as the playoffs—or eliminatorias—begin for a new World Cup, he starts to dream again. Perú in the World Cup… Perú en el Mundial.

Toño: Muchas cosas cambiaron estos últimos treinta y seis años. Terminé la universidad. Terminó el terrorismo. Me mudé a España, donde conocí a mi esposa y tuvimos a mi hijo, Gabriel, que ahora tiene cuatro años. Una noche, cuando Gabriel era más pequeño, nuestros amigos nos dieron una caja de regalos.

Martina: It was a cardboard box full of kids’ books, board games, photos, postcards, and novels. Since they knew the three of them loved fútbol, Toño’s friends also included a fútbol-themed gift.

Toño: Era un coche de juguete.

Martina:: A toy car.

Toño: Tenía el logo de Naranjito, una naranja con una gran sonrisa.

Martina: That orange with the big smile was the mascot for the 1982 World Cup. Each world cup has a mascot, like the Olympics. And this little car was an original souvenir from that world cup when Perú’s dreams were shattered.

Toño: A mi hijo le gusta el fútbol y los coches de juguete. Ahora Naranjito es uno de sus juguetes favoritos.

Martina: Gabriel also loves fútbol. In the evenings, after getting home from work, Toño and his wife take Gabriel to the park and kick around the soccer ball. Toño says realizing his son loved to play his favorite sport was like a gift.

Toño: Es algo que nos hará compañeros por mucho tiempo. Cuando estoy con mi hijo, solo necesitamos una pelota y un parque para estar felices.

Martina: About a year ago, Toño and his son were playing in a park near their house and some grade school kids challenged them to a game.

Toño: Corrimos como locos durante media hora, pero perdimos 4 a 6. Mi hijo no sabía qué pensar.

Martina:At that moment, Toño thought back to a lesson his own father taught him, to help him see that winning isn’t everything in fútbol. When they would watch Perú play, sometimes Toño’s dad would encourage him to cheer for the other team.

Toño: Mi papá me enseñó que el fútbol es para divertirse, como jugador o como espectador. Perder no es el fin del mundo.

Martina: But the thing is… when it comes seeing your team play in the World Cup, winning does start to matter. Because, if your team doesn’t qualify, they don’t go. So when the 2018 World Cup playoffs began, the “eliminatorias,” Toño was watching closely.

Toño: Solo 4 países en Sudamérica clasifican a la Copa Mundial de fútbol. Después de siete partidos, Perú era el último de la tabla.

Martina: Perú’s best chance to play in the World Cup was to win its game against Ecuador.

Toño: Los partidos eran de madrugada, muy temprano por la mañana. Yo los veía en mi cama con mi computadora. Para no despertar a mi esposa ni a mi hijo, tenía que celebrar en silencio.

Martina: It was always that way. Since Toño lived in Spain, games that started at 9 p.m. in Peru aired at 4 in the morning in Madrid. That morning, as he prepared to watch the game against Ecuador, for some reason Toño decided to watch with Naranjito as his good luck charm.

Toño: Quiero aclarar... no soy supersticioso.

Martina: Well, at least he’s not superstitious in the traditional sense of the word.

Toño: Puedo caminar por debajo de una escalera. No me da miedo que un gato negro se cruce en mi camino. Tampoco creo que romper un espejo cause siete años de mala suerte.

Martina: But being the sport’s fan that he is, Toño has always invented rituals that he repeats until he convinces himself that they can influence his team’s chance of winning. For example...

Toño: Si veo un partido en un bar y Perú pierde, no voy a ver más partidos de Perú en ese bar.

Martina: Or if he happens to wear blue socks to play and he makes a goal, not only will he go on to use those same socks for every game, but he’ll also try to remember the exact order he put them on.

Toño: ¿Primero el pie izquierdo o el derecho?

Martina: Toño is a proud “futbolero,” someone obsessed with fútbol, and he doesn’t take any chances when it comes to winning.

Toño: Un futbolero es como un niño: usa su energía en cosas que no tienen sentido para otras personas, pero, para él, tiene mucho sentido.

Martina: So that’s why, on the morning of that key game between Perú and Ecuador, it made sense to Toño to have Naranjito by his side.

Toño: No sé por qué lo hice, no puedo explicarlo. Durante el partido, miraba a Naranjito en momentos cruciales, como cuando Perú estaba en el ataque y casi mete gol...

Martina: Or when the other team was closing in, and they needed a strong defense..

Toño: Perú hizo el primer gol y le dije gracias a Naranjito. Después, Ecuador hizo un gol y toqué a Naranjito, nervioso.

Martina: And then, 12 minutes before the end of the game, Peru made its second and winning goal.

Toño: ¡Gol! ¡Gol! ¡Goool de Perú!, grité en silencio. Corrí por toda mi casa como un loco.

Martina: He ran with his right fist punching the sky in celebration, and his other hand tightly clenched around his now dear Naranjito.

Toño: Naranjito era el juguete de mi hijo. Pero ahora también era nuestro talismán para poder ir al Mundial de Rusia del 2018. Después del partido contra Ecuador, todo cambió para el equipo de Perú: empezó a ganar los partidos y a acumular puntos.

Martina: There were incredible moments like when Peru beat Uruguay in its own stadium. Or when Peru tied twice against Argentina, which arguably has the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.

Toño: Yo estaba seguro de algo: ganamos esos partidos solo porque Naranjito estaba conmigo.

Martina: The morning after Peru won a game, Toño would recap the highlights for his son Gabriel as he made him breakfast.

Toño: Mientras yo hablaba, miraba a Naranjito sobre la mesa: nuestro talismán de la buena suerte. Gracias a él, íbamos a clasificar otra vez a una Copa Mundial.

Martina: And as Peru continued to win, Toño’s friends in Madrid would insist he go out and watch the games with them in bars that stayed open into the early hours of the morning. Toño was hesitant to do this.

Toño: Sabía que mi obsesión con Naranjito era infantil e irracional. Nunca le hablé a mi esposa sobre Naranjito, por ejemplo. Pero no solo tenía verguenza, también tenía miedo. ¿Y si la suerte del talismán no funcionaba fuera de la casa? ¿Y si algo le pasaba a Naranjito?

Martina:What would he say to his son the next morning? “Hey surprise, there’s no more Naranjito?” No way! It wasn’t worth the risk.

Toño: Hasta que una noche, Perú jugaba su último partido de las eliminatorias contra Colombia, el partido más importante de todos. Entonces rompí mi tradición: fui a un bar con Naranjito.

Martina:Peru was losing until about minute 74 of the game. In that noisy bar, Toño couldn’t hear anything but his inner voice, saying...

Toño: “Si Perú pierde, va a ser por traer a Naranjito a un bar. Me iré de aquí, buscaré un lugar tranquilo y lloraré sin control”.

Martina:As the game approached the end, everyone was desperate for a goal. Two of Toño’s friends knew about his good luck charm so they asked him to take Naranjito out of his pocket.

Toño: Tomé a Naranjito con mis manos en el aire, como a un objeto poderoso. Era como una experiencia mística.

Martina:Not long after, Peru scored a goal to tie the game. Everyone in the bar went wild.

Toño: Nos abrazamos, algunos lloraban. Yo quería volver a mi casa, despertar a mi hijo y darle un beso.

Martina:Toño’s joy reminded him that no matter how far he was from his country, he still belonged to that tribe of Peruvians losing their minds with pride that night. And through him, his son belongs to it, too.

Toño: El empate contra Colombia nos dio suficientes puntos para jugar contra Nueva Zelanda por el último lugar en el mundial.

Martina:The pressure of 36 years without qualifying for the World Cup could've been enough to make Perú falter in that decisive game. But it didn't. Perú won 2 to 0, becoming the final nation to qualify for la Copa Mundial.

Toño: Como futbolero, soy irracional…¡pero no tanto! Yo sé que Naranjito no terminó con la mala suerte de Perú en 36 años, ¡pero no me importa!

Martina:What matters is Perú was going to Russia, and so was he. Toño managed to get assigned to cover the World Cup as a journalist… but his main motivation was to be there to cheer for his team in person.

Toño: Viví el sueño de todos los futboleros peruanos: ir a la Copa Mundial en Rusia, y ver los partidos no por la televisión, sino en un estadio lleno, junto a otros 35 mil peruanos.

Martina: Of course, we all know what happened. Peru lost the first two games…meaning they didn’t get past the first stage. But the team had to play one last game before heading home, even though they had no chance of moving forward in the competition.

Toño: Para nosotros, fue como jugar la final del mundial. Perú dio todo lo que tenía y, en el minuto 18, ¡hizo un gol! Gritamos con mucha satisfacción, felices por nuestro país.

Martina: The final score was 2 to 0. Peru won.

Toño: Yo estuve allí, en ese estadio, acompañando a Perú. Y repito: no soy supersticioso.

Martina: But in his suitcase, Toño carried a little toy on loan from his son, which he had promised to return… and eventually, did. Now, Toño is proud that he can say to his son:

Toño: “En Rusia perdimos, pero también ganamos. Y yo estuve allí con Naranjito. Nuestro Naranjito”.

Martina: Toño Angulo Daneri is a journalist and author. His most recent book is "Perdonen la alegría (treinta y seis años después)".

Martina: If you liked this story, we’d love it if you shared it with your friends who are also learning Spanish. Send them a link to podcast.duolingo.com. There, you can find a transcript of this story and the rest of the episodes. Subscribe at Apple podcasts or your favorite listening app, so you never miss one. With over 200 million members, Duolingo is the world's largest online language learning platform and the most downloaded education app in the world. Duolingo believes that everyone should have access to education of the highest quality for free. Learn more at duolingo.com. I'm Martina Castro, gracias por escuchar.

Credits

This episode includes recordings from artesmediales, vinjatovix, lionROAR0905, CasaAsiaSons, HeraclitoPD and Lee Rosevere under the CC Attribution License from freesound.org and Free Music Archive, and was produced by Adonde Media.

Author: Toño Angulo Daneri
Script Editor: Annie Avilés
Sound Designer: Claire Mullen
Mixing & Mastering Engineer: Martín Cruz Farga
Executive Producer/Editor: Martina Castro