When Ireland failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals in Russia, the community of Rathmullan on the west bank of Lough Swilly didn’t stay disappointed for too long.
They just dusted themselves down and decided to join their parish priest, Fr Martin
Collum, in adopting Peru as their home nation.
It’s a story that started with a chat outside Mass one Sunday morning and which will continue on Saturday when four VIPs from the Peruvian Embassy in Dublin travel to Rathmullan to raise the Peruvian flag in a very local World Cup opening ceremony at the village putting green.
After the playing of the Peruvian national anthem, ‘Arriba Peru’ will ring out, and then
they will watch Peru’s opening match against Denmark in the Beachcomber Bar.
The White Harte and Big Paddy’s will be the venues for the other two first-round
matches involving Peru.
Fr Martin worked in Peru for 14 years and is a great supporter of Alianza Lima - the
oldest team in the Peruvian first division. His hero is Alianza Lima and Peru’s
greatest-ever player, Teofila Cubillas.
Dubbed the ‘Pele of Peru’, Cubillas starred in three World Cups, scoring an amazing
total of 10 goals. He’s also Peru’s top scorer, with 26 goals for his country.
Fr Martin takes up the story: ‘When Cormac Fagan, Rathmullan Celtic Chairman, asked me where I would be watching the Peru matches, I said I’d no plans. He then suggested that I join a few of the lads to watch the match. Then word got around and, before I knew it, I’d become the Chairman of the Rathmullan Peru Supporters Club.’
The next move was to get T-shirts printed for the big match - and now everyone wants
one: from 80-year-olds to youngsters.
Fr. Martin adds: ‘Saturday’s going to be great craic, and it’s a real honour that Alberto Gonzalez, ‘Deputy Head of Mission’, his son Javier, and his colleagues, Loreto and Juanlu, are joining us for the match. It’s 36 years since Peru last qualified for the World Cup, so it’s fantastic for them.’
Cormac Fagan added: ‘We approached Joe McHugh’s office and he contacted the Peruvian Embassy on our behalf, and they were delighted to accept our invitation.The whole village is looking forward to Saturday. Rathmullan will become a sea of red and white, with bunting and Peruvian flags in the streets, and everyone wearing their Peru T-shirts. Rathmullan will become Peruvian territory during the matches’.
In an even funnier twist of fate, Alan Rough – the Scotland goalkeeper who was at
the mercy of two Cubillas wonder goals in the 1978 World Cup – was a ‘consultant’ on
It was Alan that suggested the T-shirts should carry Cubillas’ name and his
number 10 on the back as a tribute to the man who broke Scottish hearts in
Argentina in 1978.
Alan said: ‘My friend lives in Rathmullan and she asked me if I knew of a Peru
legend to put on the back of the shirts and, unfortunately, I’d had first-hand
knowledge of Cubillas in Argentina.
“I’ve been to Rathmullan, it’s a beautiful place, and I’m happy to get behind Peru, too.
Even though Cubillas’ most famous World Cup goal was a free kick that flew past
me, fair play to him. There was only one name that should be on the back of those
So, if you’re a Peruvian and living in Ireland, then why not make your way along the Wild Atlantic Way to Rathmullan to join in the celebrations on Saturday.