A team of two halves – Tim Fanning on the Peru-Chile football team in Dublin

Éamon de Valera welcomed the joint Peru-Chile selection to Leinster House prior to their match against Bohemians

The Combinado del Pacífico team that visited Dublin in 1933 was the brainchild of Juan (Jack) Gubbins

In 1933, a South American football team visited Dublin on the first stop of their European tour. That a touring side from South America was visiting these shores was something of a novelty in itself, but to make matters more unusual was the fact that the so-called Combinado del Pacífico (Selection of the Pacific) was jointly representing Peru and Chile, neighbouring nations whose longstanding enmity had given rise, some 50 years previously, to the War of the Pacific.

Welcoming the joint Peru-Chile selection to Leinster House on September 29th, 1933, the president of the Executive Council, Éamon de Valera, expressed the hope that the team’s visit to Dublin would help cement friendly relations between the two rival South American nations and the Irish Free State. Eamon Donnelly TD then gave the visiting footballers a tour of Leinster House before they were honoured at a civil reception in the Mansion House.

De Valera had plenty to talk about with the English-speaking team manager Juan (Jack) Gubbins. The Gubbinses’ Cromwellian ancestors had first settled in Bruree and were well-known in Limerick racing circles as breeders and owners in the 1930s. Indeed, Jack Gubbins’s father had emigrated from his native Limerick to Lima, where he had become involved in the rubber trade and married into the Peruvian oligarchy. To this day, the family remains well known in the Peruvian mining sector.

While Jack Gubbins was appointed manager of the team, his brother Reynaldo, also known as Reginald, took on the duties of tour organiser. The Gubbinses were not lacking in self-confidence. The politically ambitious Reginald, who had his sights set on becoming president of Peru, boasted that he was a descendant of one of Cromwell’s dragoons in certain international newspapers. Presumably the brothers kept this quiet as they chatted with assorted Fianna Fáilers over tea and biscuits during the civic reception in Dublin.


The South Americans’ tour had gotten off to a good start, with a couple of warm-up victories in Panama and Curaçao. But the first setback came not long after they embarked for Europe, when one of the squad, Luis de Souza, began showing symptoms of appendicitis. De Souza was a star player, the first Peruvian to score in a World Cup, against Romania in Peru’s opening fixture of the inaugural tournament in Uruguay in 1930.

De Souza was in agony for 11 days during the ocean crossing and it was touch and go as to whether he would survive. Upon arrival in Liverpool, however, he was admitted to hospital and an appendectomy was performed. De Souza recovered, although he played no further part in the tour, and lived until the age of 99, passing away in 2008. Meanwhile, the rest of the team travelled to Dublin for their first game on European soil.

On October 1st, 1933, more than 30,000 spectators filed into Dalymount Park to watch Bohemians take on the South Americans. Although lamenting Bohemians’ failure to take a number of gilt-edged chances, the match report in The Irish Times praised the Dublin side and was critical of the South Americans’ passing and speed of play, a little unfairly, perhaps, given that the Peruvian and Chilean players had arrived in Europe only a few days before, having spent the best part of the previous month cooped up on an ocean-going liner.

The match ended 1-1 and was the first in a gruelling itinerary that saw the Peru-Chile team play 37 matches in the space of five months. The day after the game in Dublin, the South Americans visited Belfast to take on Glentoran, which also ended 1-1. Fixtures against Celtic, Newcastle, West Ham and Bayern Munich followed. In Spain, the Gubbinses’ determination to make as much money as possible from their charges led them to divide the squad and schedule two matches in two different cities on the same day. Their opponents? FC Barcelona and a Madrid XI. Predictably, both teams suffered heavy defeats, losing 4-1 to Barcelona and 10-1 to the Madrid selection. The squad was understandably exhausted by the time they returned to South America in the spring of 1934.

The Gubbinses probably viewed the European tour with mixed feelings. While they had raised the profile of Peruvian and Chilean football, Reginald Gubbins failed to capitalise on the publicity and fulfil his dream of becoming Peruvian president.

There was, however, to be greater joy for Bohemians at the end of the 1933-34 season when they picked up their fourth league title.