After 12 years of absence

All of Chile celebrated the qualification to the football world cup

Thousands of people expressed their joy in the streets after “La Roja” clinched a spot in South Africa 2010.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009  

Universal joy spread across all of Chilean territory last weekend, when the national football team mathematically clinched its qualification to the South Africa 2010 World Cup.

The competition next year will mark the eighth time that the “La Roja” (the Reds), as the team is popularly known, has participated in a championship of this type, following a 12-year absence after ranking among the top 16 in France ’98.

Chile achieved this success one fixture prior to the end of the extended qualification process, which consisted in a small tournament of 90 matches in which the 10 members of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) faced off for four of a total of 32 berths in the competition.

The recent 4-2 victory over Colombia as a visitor gave the team led by the Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa its tickets to the competition ahead of time, something that Brazil and Paraguay had already achieved.

Thousands of inhabitants from all over the country took to the streets to celebrate the achievement once the match had concluded at around 19:50 last Saturday, 10 October, ignoring the cold that has characterized the beginning of the southern spring.

In the capital, Santiago, it was calculated that, after watching the match on television, 25,000 people gathered in the Plaza Italia downtown to sing and chant, wave flags, and illuminate the sky with fireworks.

The caravans of vehicles and the noise from their horns were standard fare around the most emblematic public spaces like the grand avenues, parks and squares of cities like Arica, Valparaiso, Concepción, or Punta Arenas.

President congratulates the national team

The jubilation also infected people like President Michelle Bachelet, who interrupted the long weekend - which lasted through Monday due to the commemoration of the discovery of America - to congratulate the victors.

“This is a glorious day for us. To go to South Africa after 12 years without managing to achieve a success like this one, in a year that has been a hard one, is a tremendous gift for everybody,” she said, after first describing the achievement as “wonderful.”

For the president, “Chile is going to be in South Africa competing with the best and we hope to play a very strong part.” And she added that “we have a great coach and a great team.”

Once back in Santiago, the president personally met with the players, the coaching staff, and national football leaders in the Juan Pinto Duran sports complex, the classic facility where the national team trains and concentrates.

“I have come here to express my thanks in the name of all Chileans, because I have the honor of having been able to be with them and to a certain degree represent what many people feel: that the celebration is just beginning,” she told them.

Before speaking and taking photographs with the president, the team captain Claudio Bravo, goalkeeper for Real Sociedad in Spain, gave her a keeper’s jersey autographed by all of his teammates.

Subsequently, President of the National Football Association (ANFP) Harold Mayne-Nicholls gave her another with the number 14 on the back, the favorite number of Matías Fernández, who plays for Sporting in Lisbon.

Government initiatives have included specific laws, the construction and refurbishment of stadiums, and the support to organize the 2015 Copa America and the adult women’s world cup.

The qualification for South Africa was also a cause for joy for the Chilean figures in France ’98. Former Real Madrid forward Iván Zamorano highlighted that “the players defended the offensive philosophy imposed by the coach to the death. That was fundamental in my opinion, because the team never renounced that proposal and turned it into its trademark playing here and abroad.”

In statements published in the daily newspaper El Mercurio, former Juventus and River Plate striker Marcelo Salas also declared that he was “happy for this great joy that has been produced for everybody and hopefully what comes next will be much better.”

“I am proud to have participated in this process and of having played under this coaching staff,” added the “Matador,” who despite his retirement continues to be the national team’s top goal scorer.