Throwback Thursday: When Two Fierce South American Rivals Joined Forces (1933-34)

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Last weekend, while everyone was out eating grilled meat and looking at pretty explosions in the sky, Chile secured their first ever Copa América championship by beating Argentina on penalties. Before they could reach the final, La Roja had to survive a semifinal encounter with their rivals Peru. (Chile won 2-1 on the strength of two incredible strikes from former QPR striker Eduardo Vargas.) The rivalry between the two countries is arguably the fiercest in CONMEBOL, with tense clashes in the 1974 World Cup and the 1975 Copa remembered to this day. Yet few people alive today remember when these two South American football powers put aside their differences and formed a hybrid team to take Europe by storm.

This week, we look back at the team that few would even deem possible today- the Combinado del Pacífico.

While the original idea for the Combinado—a binational team made up of the best players from Chile and Peru—is traced back Peruvian politicians and football officials, the team, and its subsequent barnstorming tour of Europe, were made possible by an Irish-Peruvian businessman named Jack Gubbins, who saw an opportunity for some healthy profit margins while fostering friendlier international relations. Chilean and Peruvian clubs had been making occasional visits to their respective neighbors since the 1920s, in part to help ease lingering tensions left over from the War of the Pacific waged in the 1880s; it was thought that having a binational team could do even more to bring the two countries closer together. At first, the team consisted primarily of players from two clubs—Colo Colo (based in Santiago) and Universitario de Deportes (Lima)—but it expanded before and during the tour in Europe.

After a harrowing journey by sea across the Atlantic in September, 1933—which nearly claimed the life of Peruvian striker Luis de Souza Ferreira after a bout of appendicitis—the All-Pacific finally reached the British Isles for their first leg of their tour. The team played their first fixture against then-amateur Irish side Bohemians (video above), which played out to a 1-1 draw. The Combinado followed up with a visit to England and games against Liverpool, Newcastle, and West Ham, as well as a trip north to Scotland where they were beaten by a Celtic XI. From there, the team made their way to the continent, where they played a high-profile match against Bayern Munich (who were forced to close up shop not too long after thanks to the Third Reich), and then on to face sides such as OGC Nice, Pro Vercelli, and SK Slavia Prague.

The tour culminated with a visit to Spain, the most highly-anticipated leg of the journey. Yet it was there that the All-Pacific team started coming off the rails. Two brutal losses against Barcelona (4-1) and Real Madrid (10-1) on the same day caused a scandal back home, with the Peruvian Football Federation informing FIFA that they no longer recognized the squad, demanding their players returned home. The FPF ultimately changed their minds and allowed the Combinado to finish their tour, but the two losses had unnerved the team and their subsequent performances were middling at best. By February, 1934, team morale had almost completely evaporated and players from both countries asked to return home. The Combinado returned to South America the following month, ending an exciting and all-too-brief experiment in international football.

Much like the USMNT and Mexico, Chile and Peru find ways to continue their long-standing rivalry, contesting the Clásico del Pacífico at least a few times per year. CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers begin in October, which will once again pit the two South American giants against each other in competitive play. In the meantime, the Chilean artist Joaquín Luzoro has been working on a project to compile a visual history of the All-Pacific team. His work is set to be featured in Valparaíso in March, 2016 (article in Spanish), so if you’re a football fan planning on visiting the region next year be sure to check it out.

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