August 18 will be a momentous day for the members of Peru's U-17 squad. The players are desperate to give at least 90 minutes of respite to a nation still reeling from a devastating earthquake, which caused damage beyond measure and the loss of hundreds of lives.
Currently in Korea Republic preparing for their FIFA U-17 World Cup opener on Saturday, Peru's crop of gifted youngsters have set themselves the task of bringing a small measure of hope back to their blighted countrymen. And it goes without saying that the victims of the terrible disaster will be remembered with a minute's silence before the game, while each player will also show his respects with a black armband.
A message of hope
The atmosphere pervading the Incaico camp in training has been one of solemnity and hard work. Their anxiety slightly eased by the news that none of their relatives were among the victims, the players remain deeply affected by the tragic events back home.
Meanwhile, coach Juan Jose Ore continued to put his young charges through their paces, incorporating fitness work, dribbling exercises, crossing drills and a small-sided game into an intense and highly productive training session. After the day's session was over, the players took the time to give a message of support to their countrymen back in Peru. Via a local television station, Ore's young men made a personal appeal to people to donate food and other essential aid to those affected by the disaster, before closing with an uplifting cry of "Come on Peru!"
"It would mean a lot to our country if we could give them something to cheer," said defender Jersi Socola. "Fortunately our loved ones are ok, but our thoughts are with those people in Peru who were affected. We want to win to help raise their morale."
The Alianza Lima starlet, easily recognisable after having his squad number 2 shaved into his hair, fully believes his team can kick off their Korea 2007 bid with a win. "We know the Korean side well and we know how to beat them. Besides which, now we're doubly motivated and we're not going to let the opportunity slip by." Team-mate Jairo Hernandez echoed Socola's sentiments: "I'm certain that we're going to qualify for the next round. And after that we can look at reaching the quarter-finals, then the semis and the Final. Everything we achieve will be dedicated to the people of Peru."