Volleyball (vóleibol or vóley in Spanish) is the second most popular sport in Peru after soccer, which dominates the nation’s sporting psyche despite the national team’s lack of success.
While soccer is a male-dominated sport in many respects, volleyball is traditionally a female sport. The women’s national team is a major player on the international scene; at a recreational level, the game is played by women of all ages with comparatively few male participants.
Peruvian National Volleyball Teams
Peru’s women's national volleyball team reached its peak in the 1980s, finishing the decade with a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea. Members of the 1988 Olympic team remain popular figures today, including Natalia Málaga, Gabriela Pérez del Solar, and Cecilia Tait. Tait, who began a political career after retiring from the game, is often considered one of the greatest female athletes in Peruvian sporting history.
Peru’s men’s national volleyball team has never gained any traction at the international level. The team’s greatest achievement was a bronze medal in the first-ever South American Championship back in 1951. Unlike Peru’s women, the men’s team remains a minor challenger in South America and a minnow in international competition.
Club Volleyball in Peru
The Liga Nacional Superior de Vóleibol (LNSV) is Peru’s top-level volleyball competition. Organized by the Federación Peruana de Vóleibol, it features both a women’s competition and a men’s competition (featuring 12 teams and nine teams respectively). Winners of the Liga Nacional qualify to compete in the annual South American Volleyball Club Championship.
Recreational volleyball matches take place in sports clubs, on public courts and, quite often, in the street. If you want to join in, don’t be afraid to approach and ask if they need some more players (it might not work—especially if the game is quite competitive—but there’s no harm in asking). If accepted, you might have to wait until a few games have passed until you get your opportunity.
Do Men Normally Play Volleyball?
Volleyball is typically a women’s sport in Peru, both competitively and recreationally (the men play soccer). There’s a great deal of machismo in Peru, so stereotypical sport/gender roles can be quite pronounced.
Travelers, however, shouldn’t be concerned about joining in with a game of volleyball in Peru, whether male, female, straight, gay, or otherwise. Mixed games are common, although male participants are normally outnumbered by female players (of all ages). It's also a popular activity among gay men, especially in Peru’s larger cities.
Playing for Money
Some recreational games are given extra spice with a “winner takes all” money pot, organized before the game begins. All the players put in some cash (often one or two nuevos soles each). The money then goes to the winning team, to be shared out between the successful players.
If a recreational game appears to be heating up, with breaks in play to dispute line calls and argue about all manner of minor details, there’s a good chance that the players are playing for money.