Voted Peru’s greatest footballer of all time, famously remembered for his goal scoring ability and being a free-kick specialist.
Started his professional career from the age of 16 playing in the Peruvian football’s top division. Teófilo became an instant hit ending his first season as the division’s top goal scorer. This feat, increasingly became a regular occurrence leading to a national call up for the 1970 World Cup. Here on the big stage he proved to be pivotal in Peru’s quarter final finish, earning the respect from his peers and the football world.
Teófilo Cubillas is one of only three players to score five or more goals in two different World Cup tournaments.
Born and raised from hard working parents, both worked on a farm and although little is known about Cubillas childhood, like most young boys of his era, football was their fun time and would enjoy playing hours on end, a lot of this time was spent with classmates from school. His father was a strong advocate on education and as children do, play time tends to be the primary focus but discipline on school work was instilled from a young age for all the children in their household. So Cubillas would learn to balance the two, keeping his parents happy by doing well at school to maintain the freedom of playing football. Naturally at that age he wouldn’t of understood the importance of education but will do as he got older.
Aged 13 Cubillas played for his school team against Alianza Lima FC youth side and was on the losing team but managed to score the only goal for his school. Despite the defeat his performance wasn’t unnoticed and earn’t himself an invitation to play in a match for Alianza Lima youth team which this time round he was on the winning side, scoring all 6 goals in a 6-0 win. One can imagine the joy and confidence this experience would have of brought but to add icing on the cake he also became affiliated with the club. Education was still a required priority and not to be sidelined regardless of his footballing achievement so far and over the next three years Cubillas will continue to juggle the two, something he was already familiar with doing and if there was a sacrifice to be made, missing games was the only option. There was more milestones to be achieved as the opportunity to make his professional debut for the first team arose only aged 16.
The teenager’s progress continued as he establishes himself as a first team regular playing as an attacking midfielder who possessed the ability to read the game very well, always being one step ahead combined with great skill and technique. This becomes a catalyst for additional milestones to be reached as he is called up to represent Peru and makes the cut for the 1970 World Cup squad. It would be in this tournament that Cubillas is recognised globally whilst proving he can play amongst the elite, being crowned FIFA’s World Cup Best Young Player.
Cubillas was a prime example to follow and no doubt an inspiration for aspiring players from smaller countries during a period when the perception would have certainly favoured, top footballers came from the bigger countries. Pele was quoted, naming Cubillas as his successor on the footballing stage and currently holds the record to this day as scoring the most World Cup goals for Peru.