Farfan: Peru are no longer the ugly ducklings

  • FIFA.com spoke to Jefferson Farfan hours before he found out he had contracted COVID-19
  • He revealed how he has been passing the time
  • Farfan believes Peru have become ‘daring’ under Ricardo Gareca

“The least bad thing about the pandemic, as complicated as it is for everyone, is that it gave me time to recover more fully from my injury.”

In an exclusive chat with FIFA.com, Jefferson Farfan told us how he was coping with quarantine in Russia, where he plays for Lokomotiv Moscow. At the time we spoke, the Peruvian idol was unaware that he had tested positive for COVID-19, as confirmed by a club statement just a few hours later.

The footballing hiatus in Russia had allowed the 35-year-old additional time to prepare for a return to action following a knee injury suffered at the last Copa America, which kept him on the sidelines for over six months. Having been looking forward to a return on 21 June, the date the Russian Premier League is scheduled to restart, Farfan will now only resume training “in three or four weeks” according to his club. The player known as La Foquita (The Little Seal) expressed his gratitude on social media for the support he had received since his positive test.

“Thank you all for your messages and concern,” he wrote on Instagram. “Thank God I’m feeling really good, strong and calm.

“I’m in my house and isolating as a precaution. And though I’m quarantining, I’m happy, watching football in the knowledge that I’m very well. I’m still strong, focused on my goals and targets, and on getting back out on the pitch. See you soon.”

During his chat with FIFA.com, the player spoke about his preparations for a return to action and the Peruvian national team, for which he is the second-highest scorer (27 goals) and the sixth-most capped player (95 internationals).

FIFA.com: What do you miss most about football these days?

Jefferson Farfan: Doing ball work as a group. It’s not the same working alone, which I’ve been doing at my home here in Moscow, as doing it with my team-mates. That generates a different sensation and is something we players are always after, especially in my case with not having played for so long.

What about the adrenaline rush of competing for points?

In coming back from a complicated injury, my first priority was just to recover so as to feel good with the ball. The adrenaline of a competitive game comes after. I have to wait a little longer, but I’ll be ready by the time that happens.

How has lockdown been for you thus far?

I’ve been training as well as watching movies and TV series, something I rarely did before. But above all, I’ve been communicating with my family in Lima. I talk regularly with my children, my mother, my grandmother and my friends. It helps me feel better besides passing the time.

We notice you’ve been quite active on social media, for example with your Instagram Live broadcast with Paolo Guerrero, which went down a storm in Peru…

Paolo is my pal, and the good vibe we have together is noticeable, despite us both being shy. There were about 70,000 people who enjoyed our ramblings – although some stuff we kept to ourselves. Even the smallest thing can have repercussions, so we were careful. Maybe we should do a show on YouTube! (laughs)

Venezuela v Peru: Group A - Copa America Brazil 2019
© Getty Images

Are you still in touch with any other of your Peru team-mates?

Sure, we have a WhatsApp group where we often chat. As well as sharing things like internet memes and birthday greetings, we also talk about the national team and the desire to play the [World Cup] qualifiers, especially because we want to make amends for Russia 2018, where we had hoped for more.

Given that Peru reached the final of the Copa America 2019, do you think the postponement of the start of the Qatar 2022 qualifiers might have worked against you?

I couldn’t tell you – we’ll have to see when we eventually get the qualifiers underway, but this is something that has affected every team. Furthermore, I don’t see it impeding the progress that Peru has been making. I think we’re going to maintain that spark we’ve found with [Ricardo] Gareca.

What do you mean by ‘that spark’?

I mean finding a way to play good football, to be good at controlling and moving the ball, to be daring, to have that well defined playing style that he instilled in us. That’s what’s enabled us to achieve the kind of significant feats that Peruvian football hadn’t seen for years.

You said that ‘before Gareca there was a lot of conformity’, so how did he get you all to leave your comfort zone?

My observation was based on having played in several qualifying campaigns, but when Gareca came in, he imbued us with a desire to succeed. He believed in Peruvian footballers like few coaches before him. He also had requisite self-belief and made the changes needed to prepare us in the best possible way. That was how we managed significant achievements for the team and our people, who’d endured their share of bad times – just as I had as a player.

Jefferson Farfan of Peru celebrates the qualification to Russia 2018
© Getty Images

Today Peru is considered a contender for one of South America’s automatic qualifying slots for Qatar 2022. Are you comfortable with that status?

Of course! We used to be the ‘ugly ducklings’ of the qualifiers, a period I lived through. Opponents came to Peru expecting at least one or all three points. Those days are over. Teams coming here or even welcoming us know they’ll be facing a team capable of beating anyone. And that’s even after they’ve analysed us and know us better than ever.

After 17 months without a call up, you returned to the squad in 2017 for the intercontinental play-off against New Zealand, going on to score the goal that secured qualification for Russia 2018. How many times have you watched that goal?

Probably 10,000 times! It was really special: I was back in the team and it was all very emotional. That qualification came at the ideal time, and everything worked out like I’d dreamed.

What role will you play in Gareca’s project going forward?

That of being the oldest squad member alongside Guerrero! (laughs) I want to contribute from the inside, playing obviously, but also from the outside, using my experience to talk to the younger guys. That said, this is already a very expressive group, which has been one of the keys to our success. We know how to communicate with each other.

And how long do you think you can keep playing for?

As long as God wants me to! (laughs) As my mother says, you just never know, and anything can happen in this life. Maybe it’s two years, three, four… I don’t have an exact date. So long as my body allows me and I can still compete and feel happy on the pitch, I’ll keep playing.

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