World Cup | Peru’s World Cup return a fitting tribute to Alianza Lima

Peru will return to the biggest stage in international football this summer for the first time since 1982, and for the first time since the Alianza Lima air disaster of 1987.

While most younger fans will be excited to see their country participate in a World Cup for the first time, there will be many older fans thinking of everything Peru has been through since the last time they were at a World Cup, including the Alianza Lima air disaster.

Alianza were in position to win their first league title since 1978 after a 1-0 win over Deportivo Pucallpa had seen them move to the top of the league table, but as the team flew back to Lima after the game, the plane carrying the team crashed.

There were 44 people on board with all but one, the pilot, dying.

Alianza lost 16 first team players, 11 members of club staff and eight cheerleaders with the other fatalities being crew members, navy personnel, and referees.

The deaths included several Peruvian internationals and also one of the countries greatest ever managers, Marcos Calderon, who had helped the national team win the 1975 Copa America.

Some of the others who passed away included Jose Casanova, Luis Antonio Escobar and Jose Gonzalez Ganoza who were all Peruvian internationals with Escobar in particular considered to be a player who may well have gone on to have a successful career if it had not been for the accident.

As it happened, the club would struggle for another decade and it would be 1997 before they would next become league champions.

There have been many different rumours spread about what actually happened on the night of the crash but the official story has never been released.

Many say there had been some issues with the landing gear and that a landing had to be aborted as the pilot performed a fly-by at the airport so those on the ground could check that the landing gear had been properly deployed.

Other stories suggest that as he turned to attempt another landing, part of the plane hit the water, which caused the plane to go down, while others say that the fuel ran out due to the delay in landing the plane.

At this stage, it’s unlikely that the truth will ever fully be known and we will also sadly never know what the young men who perished on that December evening could have achieved in the game.

However, it’s right that as Peru prepares to play in their first World Cup for 36 years that the memories of all those lost should be honoured during what is a happier time for Peruvian football.

Gerry Johnston

This article originally appeared on, where you can find a definite World Cup guide.