Competitive Volleyball in Peru

recreational volley ball in peru
Beatrice Murch/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
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    Competitive Volleyball in Peru

    Peru's national youth volleyball team in action
    Tony Dunnell

    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.

    The women’s national team has failed to reach such heights since the beginning of the 1990s but remains a force on the world stage. As of July 2012, the Peruvian team is ranked seventeenth in the FIVB Senior World Rankings. The team failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

    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 twelve teams and nine teams respectively). Winners of the Liga Nacional qualify to compete in the annual South American Volleyball Club Championship.

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    Playing Volleyball in Peru

    Tony Dunnell

    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).

    Volleyball is also popular among gay men, especially in Peru’s larger cities. According to Justin Perez, “Many gay men in the popular sectors of Lima, Peru participate in vóley callejero, or street volleyball” (“Word Play, Ritual Insult, and Volleyball in Peru;” Journal of Homosexuality; Volume 58, Issue 6-7, 2011).

    Playing Volleyball 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.