A passion For Soccer
Despite being a soccer-loving country in the Western Hemisphere, Peru — a mineral- rich nation in Spanish-speaking South America— is not a powerhouse in men’s football on the global stage. Incredibly, the local standard is not high. Based in its World Cup performances since the mid-1980s, Peru is by far the worst-performing soccer in the region. In 2008-2009, for instance, the men’s football squad finished 10th overall (last) in the 2010 World Cup Elimination Round for South America, behind Bolivia and Venezuela. In spite of a lack of school sports programs across the country, however, it has been producing some top-notch soccer players, and one of them is Claudio Pizarro (alongside with a number of high-profile footballers such as Jefferson Farfán, Paolo Guerrero and Juan Manuel Vargas). It seems a miracle.
What do you know about Claudio Pizarro? Why is Pizarro famous?
Like Hugo Sotil, Guerrero, Teodoro Fernández (known as “Lolo”), Juan Seminario, and Cubillas, Pizarro is one of the country’s most well-known soccer players of all time and arguably one of the best players on the continent in the 21st century. He leads the third golden generation of Peruvian players after the 1930s and 1970s. Pizarro is part of Juan Manuel Vargas’ and Guerrero’s generation.
Pizarro is highly regarded around the globe for his skill level and scoring ability. On the field, he uses it to score several wonderful goals, including hat tricks against Hannover, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lille, among others. Thus, he is the first Peruvian footballer to be taken seriously by Europe’s top clubs since Sotil.
Curiously, Pizarro is particularly successful on the club side, having won top division championships with two squads from Germany: Werder Bremen & Bayern Munich. For some critics, however, it is good for Pizarro and his club, but not for most Peruvians: he has failed to win a major championship for his country.
He is currently member of the powerful Bayern Munich squad (one of the modern era’s finest teams). At the same time, he plays in the Peruvian National Team since the late 1990s. Thanks to him, the Munich-based club returned to the biggest sports stage in the world in the 2010s. As well as being a top scorer, he is responsible for a host of assists to Bayern Munich’s footballers. But that isn’t all. Since the early 2000s, he shattered international records on German soil (one of the globe’s largest industrial nations). As well as being the most successful Peruvian player abroad in the history of Peru’s football, Pizarro authored one of the greatest performances in the world of sports as he became the top foreign scorer in the history of Germany’s soccer, which made Peruvians in all corners of the world feel really proud. Aside from Germany, he has played on championship teams in other countries: Peru (Deportivo Pesquero of Chimbote & Alianza Lima) and the United Kingdom (Chelsea).
Widely regarded as the best “Goodwill Ambassador for Peru on European soil”. However, his poor performance with the Peruvian side has come to overshadow the achievements of his career within Europe. He never appeared in a FIFA World Cup like some world-classfootballers such as George Weah of Liberia and Chad’s Japhet N’Doram. Nonetheless, the “Andean-Bomber”, as the German media dubbed him, has scored a moral victory for Peru’s soccer fans. Similarly, he has played an important role in popularizing soccer within Peru, inspiring talented footballers, among them Jordy Reyna and José Carlos Fernández.
Deservedly, he has several honours to his credit. Back in 1995, he was elected as the Best Iberoamerican Footballer on European soil. Domestically, he was named the most outstanding player toward the end of the 1990s. In the 21st century, he was Bundesliga champion four times ( 2002-2003, 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2012-2013).
Bellavista, 3 October 1978
On October 3, 1978, Claudio Miguel Pizarro Bosio came into the world in the small city of Bellavista ,Callao (on Peru’s Pacific coast),near the Peruvian capital of Lima— the same year in which the national team competed with relative success at the FIFA 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
A born-athlete, he was the third child born to Claudio Pizarro Dávila and the former Patricia Bosio. He holds a sister (Patricia) and brother (Diego). Since his first years, he could breathe air of soccer: curiously enough, his father was a big soccer fan and encouraged his son to play soccer for fun alongside other sports. Differently, his brother has chosen to follow in his footsteps: Diego plays for Cienciano after having been selected for Bayern Munich’s youth squad for a while.
The 1.8-m- tall Peruvian Pizarro grew up during Shining Path’s thirteen-year terrorism, one of the worst chapters in Peru’s history, where the sport was not one of government’s top priorities as occurred in many war-torn places around the globe. The 1980-1993 Maoist-based Shining Path ( a Khmer Rouge-type guerrilla movement) attacked the Andean country, destroying its economic infrastructure and killing more than 70,000 people.
From early on in his life, Pizarro had an Olympic spirit. He grew up in a household where the sport was always emphasized as a priority. Throughout the 1980s, Pizarro attended Liceo Naval Almirante Guise in Callao (the equivalent of an American high school).Here, he demonstrated his talent for football.
At the astonishingly age of 6,he was introduced to sports by his father, who has had the most influence on his life.Indeed, his favorites disciplines were football, teniss, track-and-field, and basketball. However, soccer was his real love when he was a young boy. Certainly, his passion was playing soccer. He played with a ball every weekend after school with the neighborhood boys. In the meantime, his father was an excellent teacher. It was during this time that the family lived in Santiago de Surco, a district of Lima. By 1986, he saw the FIFA World Cup on TV and could admire Diego Armando Maradona of Argentina,a ball wizard and one of the greatest professional athletes in history.
Over the following years, the Pizarros moved to Paita (Piura), a city in the North of Peru. During his stay in Piura, Claudio had more of an opportunity to display his talent when he played for a local club as an amateur player. Here, his father, a naval officer, was stationed. In spite of his limited preparation, Pizarro’s play had improved tremedously.Subsequently, he and his parents returned to the Peruvian capital.
After heading back to Lima, he began working exclusively in the sport at a Callao sports school: the would be professional footballer joined a youth club called Academia Cantolao (also one of the top training centers in Peru for young soccer players), where he made his first appearance. With his family’s support, he entered the Cantolao Academy with a goal: to become one of the best players of his generation.
In those years, Pizarro showed an unusual aptitude for football. His desire to learn impressed many coaches. Around this time, he was inspired by the football feats of fellow Peruvian Waldir Sáenz, who became Alianza Lima´s all-time leading scorer with 167 goals and 324 matches. Since then, Sáenz was Pizarro’s boyhood idol. Under this atmosphere,Pizarro was a huge fan of Peru’s Alianza Lima club (among the country’s most popular and celebrated squads) and full-time soccer player. Aside from Sáenz, he also greatly admired Colombia’s footballer Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama.
During his college years, he competed in the regional football championships for under-12s when Cantolao, hosted several international tournaments with the participation of teams from Europe and the Spanish-speaking world.
Back in the mid-1990s, he turned professional when he was picked up by Deportivo Pesquero, a club based in the costanal city of Chimbote. In this remote corner of northern Lima, he scored his first goals during a match between his club (lesser-known club in his homeland country) and Atletico Torino of Talara.Over that time, a lot of things changed. In this context, for example, he quickly established himself as one of Deportivo Pesquero’s top footballers.
Lima (Peru), 1 August 1999
Toward the end of the 1990s, Alianza Lima took particular interest in the Latin American player, recognizing Pizarro’s raw talent. By the time he turned 18, the young talented athlete officially gained a place with AL. Nonetheless, he played as a substitute until 1997.
Over his career in Lima’s top club, he had generated widespread interest and emotion. Before he reached the age of 21, Peru’s striker Pizarro made his mark with his club by scoring 25 goals in two seasons. Also, he began to make a name for himself as a soccer player by scoring five goals in a game against Unión Minas. In this context, Pizarro was a critical part of Alianza Lima’s squad as they were runner-ups in the national championship. After a brief period of time, Pizarro was plucked out from Lima by a talent scout of Germany’s Werder Bremen, champions in recruiting foreign-born players in the developing world. Within a few months, he was a regular on the Senior Peruvian side.
Interestingly, Claudio is the first Peruvian player to come to Germany’s league. Aside from that, he is also one of the fourth Peruvian athletes with strong links with the European nation, after Edith Noeding (of German heritage), Fernando Acevedo, and Paolo Guerrero. Back in the 1970s, Peruvian hurdler’s German-trained Noeding captured four titles in the Bolivarian Sports Games (1970-1977) and the gold medal in the women’s 100m hurdles at the 1975 Pan American Games (a hemispheric version of the Summer Olympic Games) in the Mexican metropolis. Chincha-born sprinter Fernando Acevedo, who had earned many trophies in international meets, received a pre-Olympic preparation for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics while he studied physical education in Germany’s city of Maguncia.
Munich, 1 July 2001
Wearing the number 10 shirt (the first Peruvian ever named to that particular post), Pizarro scored 29 goals in his two seasons with Werder Bremen, becoming one of the most coveted players of Latin America on European soil. Soon afterward, Werder Bremen’s number 10 was picked up by the German powerhouse Bayern Munich, helping to open up the opportunities for other Peruvian players in Germany. In fact, he has had a successful club career with Bayern.
In the Bundesliga and League of champions of the UEFA, he did not disappoint with an impressive tally of 19 goals. He made his first appearance during a match against Schelke, scoring one of the fastest goals in that event— four minutes.
His breakthrough came when he was on Bayern Munich’s Intercontinental Cup roster which captured its first major international title in the 21st century. Following a stunning win over Boca Junior from Argentina (1-0), Pizarro and his fellow team mates won the World Club Cup in Far East in late 2001. It was the most notable achievement of his career up to that time. Team’s unexpected win surprised everyone, a circumstance that had not occurred since 1976. After that, Claudio became almost indispensable to Bayern Munich’s plans. Then, he returned home to a hero’s welcome. Indeed, he already was regarded as one of South America’s next superstars.
In the 2002-2003 campaign, Bayern Munich’s sportsmen gained the Bundesliga title, allowing them to qualify for the League of Champions (2003-2004).Additionally, they earned the German Cup. After an injury, Pizarro bounced in February 2003 and was instrumental during these top division championships. At the age of 25, he finished second in scoring in Germany’s championship, behind Giovane Elber and Thomas Christiansen.
In the next season (2004-2005), Claudio Pizarro’s Bayern Munich placed first in the Bundesliga.
Later that period, he, however, had decided not to compete for Munich’s top club.
London, 8 August 2007
Surprisingly,by mid-2007, Pizarro headed for the United Kingdom to compete in the Premier League Encouraged by his countryman, Nolberto Solano ( a former professional football star), he earned a place on Chelsea’s squad, (whose coach José Mourinho sought Pizarro’s services) during a while. Some years ago, Solano had competed in Britain’s professional league.
During his stay in London, he donned his popular number 14 for Chelsea. Nevertheless, Pizarro’s early months in Great Britain coincided with the leadership of a new coach: Avram Grant. London’s officials elected Avram to replace Mourinho, who had served as coach between 2004 and 2008. But that period wasn’t a happy time for Pizarro when he was replaced by Nicolas Anelka (who was a protégé of Grant), following a good debut with the team manager coach Mourinho ( he scored a goal against Birmingham in the opening weekend of the 2007-2008 PL).Unfortunately, Pizarro’s play had declined and he was widely criticized by England’s fans.Then,Chelsea’s number 14 was left off the 26-man roster. Later on, he was back in full form to play for his new club. He was a Werder Bremen player again.
Bremen (Germany), 8 August 2008
In the wake of his experience in the UK, he was named to be a member of Bremen’s club. On August 30, 2008, he scored his first goal during Bremen’s win 3-2 over Borussia. At the same time, he confirmed his status as one of the most respected footballers of Germany’s championship with a hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt. Shortly afterwards, he scored against Hannover, including a hat trick. Based on his performance, Pizarro received a special award as the Best Player.
In September 2008, WB crushed Bayern Munich 5-2 with a goal.of Pizarro. Over the next months, he scored 17 goals in 26 top division games. Then, he had an impressive time for Bremen in the 2008-2009 season when he incredibly produced 28 goals in 46 matches against powerhouse teams such as Inter, Milan, and Udinese. By 2009, he later moved back to England to play for his former club. He earned a roster on Chelsea’s side, but he was not regular player in the game.By this time, nonetheless, Pizarro was recalled by Bremen.
Istambul, 20 May 2009
In early 2009, he was instrumental in guiding Werder Bremen to the finals of the UEFA Campions League. In May, Bremen defeated Hamburg 3-2, a game in which Pizarro had an outstanding role.Nevertheless, the European trophy was captured by Ukraine’s Shakhter Donetsk squad, which had dispatched Pizarro’s team 2-1 in the finals at Istambul’s Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
During Pizarro’s last years in Werder Bremen (2009-2010), he won a great victory for both himself and Bremen when he scored 16 goals in 26 matches, becoming one of the most valuable players in the Bundesliga. At the same time, this Peruvian-born footballer became top scorer in the UEFA Champions League, with 9 goals in just 8 matches, well head of Luis Cardozo from Paraguay.
Following a game against Freiburg, on March 6, 2011,he made international headlines as he scored his goal number 138. As a result of this, Pizarro became the top foreign-born scorer in the history of Germany’s football. He always dreamed about this moment. Evidently, his win caused excitement in his homeland country.
Munich, 1 July 2012
At the beginning of 2010s, he refused to return back to Bremen and was transferred to Bayern Munich, kicked off a new period. In fact, Pizarro is the Peruvian soccer player most coveted by Europe’s top clubs.
During its victory over Lille of France (6-1) in the Champions League game in late 2012, Bayern Munich got a hat-trick fromPizarro, one of the most entertaining games of the championship.
By early 2013, Pizarro was a football phenomenon in Bayern’s victory 9-2 over Hamburg.Then, against Juventus in the quarterfinals of the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League. Subsequently, Hannover was defeated by BM 6-1, which had two goals by Pizarro. Without a doubt, he stole the show for Munich’s club with his dribbling skills.
At the beginning of April 2013, in an unprecedented achievement, Pizarro’s team captured the Bundesliga title by beating Eintracht Frankfurt (1-0).It was the culmination of a dream. Munich’s fans hoped for win and they were not disappointed with the Latino striker. In May, the month of his great explosion, he returned to the front pages of Peruvian newspapers when his team bested Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to take the Champions League trophy at London’s Wembley Stadium, in the first all-German final. It wasn’t a secret Pizarro planned to win the international championship.
Lima, 7 June 2013
Despite his achievements and international credentials abroad, Pizarro is a professional footballer of a country which has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since the early 1980s when his fellow countrymen, spearheaded by its international star Cubillas, left Lima for Spain to attend the XXII FIFA World Championship.
Member of Peru’s football squad, unfortunately, this Munich-based player has had a poor performance during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Games (2002-2014) and other international meets such as Copa America (also known as America Cup) and Under-20 South American Championship.
Competing for the national squad at the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela, Pizarro suffered a serious injury during a game against the host country. Owing to this, he was not able to play in Europe for a while.He bounced back in late 2007. Three years earlier, by 2004, Pizarro captained the Peruvian side to a 7th place in the World Cup-type Copa America on home soil. Seven years later, he had other injury problems and was not selected to be member of the 2011 Peruvian national team that won a bronze in the America Cup on Argentine soil, the oldest soccer championship on Earth.
In late 2007, Pizarro and four Peruvian players -Santiago Acasiete, Jefferson Farfan and Andrés Mendoza—were involved in some off-the-field controversies after a match for the World Cup Qualifier. But Pizarro denied it. The Peruvian athlete said he was innocent and would fight the charge.Subsequently, he was suspended by the Peruvian Football Association (Peruvian governing body) for 18 months. After an investigation, the Peruvian sports officials later reduced the ban to three months.
On April 17, 2009, he was exonered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. “Iam very satisfied and feel vindicated, Pizarro said. “My honor has been restored.My family and friends have always stood by me and knew that were all just lies that were being spread about me.But this verdict will not also give certainly to everyone who had doubts that I have always told the truth…”
Following his excellent performance in Western Europe in the late 2000s, Peruvian sports fans hoped that Claudio Pizarro would lead Peru to win a berth in the FIFA 2010 World Cup, but it did not occur. In spite of the skepticism of sportswriters and some sports fans, however, he was a key player when Peru defeated Ecuador (one of South America’s most powerful squads) in a prequalifying match for the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup on home soil, scoring the winning goal in the match and sparking off celebrations across the nation. There were a lot of Peruvian fans in the streets.
The Callao-born Pizarro first international performance came in the late 1990s as he made his senior team debut during a friendly against Ecuador. Overall, he played 69 times for Peru. From 2003 to 2007, he was the captain of the Peruvian National team.
Although there are people that criticize Pizarro, he is still very popular with local fans in the Andean republic. Children in many Peruvian cities know his name. Evidently, he has a whole country behind him. Due to his outstanding career in Western Europe, he is currently one of the most famous individuals within Peru, alongside Paolo Guerrero (Sao Paulo-based footballer), Natalia Malaga (coach of Peru’s junior volleyball team), Gastón Acurio (Latin America’s foremost chef) and the prize- winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.
The team and Pizarro are front-page news almost every day. Pizarro is always in the Spanish-speaking newspapers and on television in the South American republic.In fact, he is monitored by several journalists.
Outside the sport of football, Claudio, interests and hobbies include horse racing (as his fellow soccer player Paolo Guerrero) and spending time with family and friends. Likewise, it is well-known Pizarro’s passion for Peruvian cuisine, one of the Spanish-speaking world’s top cuisines.
Pizarro, who turns 35 today, is an outstanding leader on the field, but a sensitive person off the field.He has worked on behalf of some philanthropic causes in his homeland country. Too, he is generous with autograph seekers.For his football feasts, a statue will be erected in his honor at the Alianza Club Stadium.
Pizarro, who has not forgotten his roots in the streets of Lima, Paita and Callao, divides his time between Peru and Germany. On April 22, 1999, the Peruvian footballer married his high school sweetheart Karla Salcedo, who has been his lifelong companion. He, who speaks German with a thick Spanish accent, is also the proud father of two young sons and one daughter: Gianluca, Claudio, and Antonella.
Pizarro often dresses in unusual ways, such as blue jeans, shirts, and, jackets. Among Pizarro’s admirers are Mario Vargas Llosa and Teófilo Cubillas (regarded as the best overall soccer player in Peru’s history).
(1)– Almanaque Mundial 1977, Editorial América, Panamá, 1976 (Spanish)
(2)– Brentnall,Richard. A Different Corner: Exploring Spanish Football (English)
(3)- Cristiano Ronaldo, John Blake Publishing, 2013 (English)
(4)- “En la Gloria! Claudio Pizarro Batio Record de Elber Como Goleador Extranjero en la Bundesliga”,www.elcomercio.pe (Spanish)
(5)- Guevara Onofre, Alejandro. “FIFA World Cup. Interesting Facts!”,Voices.Yahoo.com (English)
(6)– ——————-“Road To 2014 Brazil. History of Men’s FIFA World Cup”,Voices.Yahoo.com (English)
(7)- “Peru Striker Claudio Pizarro Wins Court Case”, CNN Sports Illustrated, 20 April 2009 (English)
(8)- “Pizarro Heading to Germany to Treat Fractured Skull”, CNN Sports Illustrated, 13 July 2004 (English)
(9)- Rowbottom,Mike. “Peruvian Pizarro Brings a British Touch to Chelsea, The Indepenent, London, 25 July, 2007 (English)
(10)- Witzig,Richard. The Global Art of Soccer, CusiBoy Publishing, 2006 (English)