Lima C&FC: The Peruvian cricket club that kick-started football in South America

The Lima C&FC Crest

Peru’s men's football team recently made headlines after they finished fourth in the 2021 Copa America. They went further in the competition than heavyweights such Uruguay and Chile, earning plenty of respect and admiration from the global footballing fraternity.

The South American nation has generated some incredible footballing talent over the years, including the late Pedro Pablo Leon, Claudio Pizarro and, more recently, Yoshimar Yotun and Luis Advincula. But not many know that Peru is also home to the oldest South American football club.

The Lima Cricket and Football Club (or Lima C&FC) was founded 162 years ago in Peru’s capital, Lima. Its founders have been historically recorded to be the British community that resided in the city.

What is fascinating about the club's formation is that the community was initially more interested in the sport of cricket. They formally created the club in 1859 as the 'Lima Cricket Club' to generate more interest in the sport among the capital city’s inhabitants.

Lima C&FC’s diversification into other sports

While cricket did gain traction among the citizens, Lima C&FC also encouraged participation in other sports. Football, rugby and lawn tennis accompanied cricket as the club became popular in the 1860s.

This increase in popularity saw the club being renamed the 'Lima Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club' in 1865. The change coincided with the club merging with a local tennis club. It is worth noting that two years prior to this event, the Football Association (FA) had just been founded in England to govern the sport and ensure its growth at all levels.

The Lima Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club played their first recorded football match in 1892. A year later, they also added an official football division. However, the biggest change within the club came at the start of the 20th century.

By 1900, the English FA had more than 10,000 clubs affiliated with it. This growth had its impact in Peru as well. The Lima Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club was renamed the 'Lima Cricket and Football Club' somewhere between 1900 and 1906 as football’s popularity saw a massive rise in Europe, and specifically England.

Lima C&FC was also instrumental in inspiring the creation of other Peruvian football clubs, the most notable of them being Union Cricket, founded in 1892. While the former exclusively consisted of foreigners who resided in Peru, the latter was among the first to include Lima’s young gentlemen. These individuals were mostly from families of the elite in the city.

Both of these clubs, however, suffered from a similar pitfall. They largely catered to the elite, which saw them lose out when upcoming clubs began scouting and selecting regional talent from all backgrounds. This was especially notable in the 1920s as other clubs, which had a larger pool of talent to recruit from, began beating Lima C&FC, which led to their relegation to the lower tiers of Peruvian club football.

The club did, however, enjoy their time in the spotlight. Lima C&FC won Peru’s Primavera Division in 1912 and 1914, while they were runners-up in 1913. Since then, though, they have been largely limited to the regional league, which they last won in 2016. Lima C&FC presently find themselves in the local league of the San Isidro District in Lima.

The tweet above includes a picture of the Lima C&FC team that won Peru's Primavera division in 1912.

Lima C&FC’s cricket connection

The club continues to stay connected with numerous other sports, especially cricket.

Lima C&FC are the current de facto home of the Peru Cricket Association. They host the National T20 League every year between January and April, besides hosting the National American Championships for both men and women. The 2014 edition of the competition, which was the last one hosted by Lima C&FC, saw participation from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru.

It is interesting to note how the roots of football in the continent evolved from cricket. Lima C&FC seemingly laid the spadework for the footballing talent that has come through the ranks in Peru. Remarkably, cricket is no longer as popular as football in the continent.

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Edited by Bhargav
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