An introduction to Peruvian football and the Torneo Descentralizado

Torneo Descentralizado

Hello, my name is Brian Bertie and as a Peruvian new writer on the site, it would be good to give an introduction on Peruvian football.

The Torneo Descentralizado (the name of the league) was founded in 1966, although similar to the English Premier League, it has existed prior but under a different name. The two most successful clubs are Universitario de Deportes and Alianza Lima. These 2 teams have the most titles as well as the biggest fanbases. Universitario have 26 titles and Alianza Lima have 22 titles. The third biggest team is known as Sporting Cristal. They are younger than the other two as they have only been around since 1955 but have been the most successful team since the beginning of the century, having won 18 titles overall and 5 since the start of the century. All three of these teams are based in Lima, the country’s capital city. There is much debate on who is Peru’s 4th biggest team. Sport Boys have six titles and Municipal have four. The debate is about who has the bigger fanbase. Universidad San Martin have three titles, who are the most successful club after Municipal. However, Universidad San Martin are not a big team as they don’t have a fanbase as large as the other teams. Universidad San Martin are from Lima but play in Callao which is the city right next to Lima. Deportivo Municipal are from the main city and Sport Boys are from Callao. Both Universidad San Martin and Deportivo Municipal are in the top flight but Sport Boys is in the second tier.

Peru is a big country, and there are more teams that have had success outside of Lima. Not all in the league though. The term “provincial teams” are used to describe any team outside of Lima. FBC Melgar is the most successful provincial team, with two titles won. Melgar are based in Southern Peru in the city of Arequipa. They have most recently won a title in 2015. Cienciano is the other reputable side from the provinces. They are based in Cusco, which is where most people go to view Machu Pichu. They are the only Peruvian team to have won a continental trophy, but amazingly they have never won a domestic title. They won the 2003 Copa Sudamericana beating River Plate 4-3 on aggregate in the final. They also won the Recopa Sudamericana which is the UEFA Supercup of South America, against 2003 Libertadores champions, Boca Juniors. Union Huaral is another provincial team that has had success. They have won two titles in Peruvian football. FBC Melgar are currently in the top flight and considered one of the stronger teams in the country, currently participating in this year’s Copa Libertadores, while Cienciano and Union Huaral are competing in the second division.

Continentally, Peru is one of the three nations to have never won a Copa Libertadores. Venezuela and Bolivia are the other two nations to have never won it. Universitario and Sporting Cristal have both reached finals (Universitario 1972 and Sporting Cristal in 1997) but neither could manage to win them. Both teams had reputable players. Universitario in 1972 had the likes of Percy Rojas, Hector Chumpitaz and Juan Carlos Oblitas. Sporting Cristal had Julinho (the Peruvian Julinho) Jorge Soto and the well-known Nolberto Solano on their team. As mentioned earlier, Cienciano are the only Peruvian team to have won a continental trophy, but this was the Copa Sudamericana rather than the Copa Libertadores.

The format of Peruvian football is like no other. Every single year the format changes, although they are usually similar. Firstly, the promotion and relegation system is very different to most countries. Unlike Argentina, Peru doesn’t use the accumulated points system over three years. Instead, they accumulate the points gained over the season. For example, last season, there were two halves of a season, the apertura and the clausura. They have different tables but the points were all accumulated into one table, and the two teams with the least points went down to the second division. Next, the promotion system. The promotion system is possibly the most complex system in world football. Instead of having the top two teams in the second division replace the bottom two teams in the primera, instead one team from the second division goes up and the winner of the Copa Peru (third division) goes up to the primera. The runner up of the Copa Peru goes up to the second division although no teams from the primera get relegated to the Copa Peru.

The Copa Peru is a knockout cup, although the format changes every year. There are hundreds who can participate but only the winner and the runner ups of each district compete in the actual tournament. Each district has its own competition. Prior to last season, the knockout format would be a round of 16 to the final. However, last season, the four semi-finalists entered a group stage and the winner of the group would get promoted. Most Copa Peru teams get relegated in their first year in the top flight. The teams that do stay up in the first year have done well to establish themselves as a team. Real Garcilaso are the most recent example of this. They were crowned Copa Peru champions in 2011 and they have reached the Peruvian final twice (2012 and 2013) and have reached a Copa Libertadores quarter final (2013) before getting knocked out by Santa Fe.

The format as stated, changes every year in the Primera. This season, there are three championships. First the Torneo de Verano which translates to “the summer tournament”. The Torneo de Verano consists of eight teams in two groups, and the winner of each group will play a final. The winner of that final only wins a spot in the Copa Libertadores as “Peru 3” which will see that team go into a playoff to reach the group stage.

The next two tournaments are the two that are relevant to the trophy at the end of the year. Similar to other South American leagues, the apertura and clausura. The winner of each league go into a final at the end of the year and the winner of that tie is the winner of the league. While most years uses a similar format, it is still different nevertheless. Both finalists get an automatic spot in the Copa Libertadores group stages.

The leagues are very complex but as for how the league is currently going on, recently promoted Sport Rosario are first in their torneo de verano group with 17 points, although second place Melgar have a game in hand with 15 points. Univesidad Tecnica Cajamarca are in first in group B, still with 7 matches to play. The current top scorer of the league is Uruguayan Luis Aguiar, ex-Peñarol and current Alianza Lima with 6 goals. Paraguayan Cristian Bogado in second with 5 goals for Union Comercio.

As for internationals, there are many Peru internationals in the league. Aldo Corzo, and Alberto Rodriguez both at Universitario de Deportes are regular starters for the national team. Pedro Aquino from Sporting Cristal has gotten a few starts in the last few matches. As for others, Arquimedes Figuera from Universitario is a Venezuela international, Luis Tejada and Alberto Quintero also from Universitario are both Panama internationals. As for a few players who aren’t internationals but are well known include Juan Manuel Vargas (ex-Fiorentina and Catania, current Universitario) Carlos Ascues (he was a starter in the 2015 Copa America for Peru, current FBC Melgar) and Ysrael Zuñiga (ex-coventry, current FBC Melgar)

Here’s a quick roundup of where each team are from and who are their key players.

Team – City (Key players)

Universitario – Lima (Luis Tejada, Alberto Rodriguez, Diego Manicero)

Alianza Lima – Lima (Luis Aguiar, German Pacheco, Luis Ramirez)

Sporting Cristal – Lima (Joel Sanchez, Carlos Lobaton, Pedro Aquino)

Deportivo Municipal – Lima (Pier Larrauri, Erick Delgado, Diego Mayora)

FBC Melgar – Arequipa (Omar Fernandez, Ysrael Zuñiga, Emanuel Herrera)

Universidad San Martin – Lima (Alexander Succar, Wilder Cartagena)

Academia Cantolao – Callao (Jeferson Collazos, Jose Manzaneda, Paulo Albarracin)

Sport Rosario – Huaraz (Pablo Lavandeira, Salomon Libman)

Sport Huancayo – Huancayo (Julio Landauri, Antonio Meza-Cuadra, Marcos Lliuya)

Real Garcilaso – Cusco (Alfredo Ramua, Robert Ardiles, Jhoel Herrera)

Juan Aurich – Chiclayo (Renzo Sheput, Gianmarco Gambetta)

Alianza Atletico – Sullana (Junior Aguirre)

Union Comercio – Nueva Cajamarca (Cristian Bogado, Matias Mirabaje)

Ayacucho FC – Ayacucho (Mario Villasanti, Nestor Duarte)

Comerciantes Unidos – Cutervo (William Palacio)

Universidad Tecnica Cajamarca – Cajamarca (Donald Millan, Gino Guerrero)

I highly look forward to writing on here about Peruvian football. I will talk about our national team as well as giving roundups and match previews. I’ll be back soon!