By Tariq Panja
SARANSK, Russia — Augusto Caceres, 81, had all but given up hope of seeing his beloved Peru at a World Cup again during his lifetime.
He has been to 13 straight World Cups, beginning with the 1970 tournament. And for much of that time, Peru had failed again and again to make it to soccer’s biggest showcase. Still, Caceres kept going, and hoping that Peru might somehow be a part of the World Cup for the first time since 1982. And now Peru is.
Dining in a restaurant here on Friday, a day before Peru made its return to the World Cup in a frustrating 1-0 loss against Denmark, Caceres spoke about his adventures, of the great players and the great teams he has seen over the years, and of Peru’s continued absence from it all.
“I went back home every year and they didn’t improve,” he said, recalling all the years of failure and of the Peruvian national teams that did play good soccer but had bad luck. “In soccer, you win by scoring goals, and when 10 years had passed by, I thought they will never make it.”
But they did, and now Caceres will have a lot of company. For after a 36-year wait, Peruvians are not taking any chances. Who knows how long it will be until the next World Cup opportunity arises. Better to take part in this one.