Since Marcelo Bielsa took “La Roja” to the group stage and beyond at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Chilean soccer players — and coaches — have been taking the world by storm.
In Italy, Arturo Vidal has led Juventus to the last two Serie A titles. The Chilean playmaker is widely considered one of the best players in Europe and is on the wish list of clubs like Real Madrid, who’ll have a tough job of convincing his Italian manager to let him go. In Spain, Alexis Sánchez — Chile’s “Niño Maravilla” — is competing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar for a starting berth at superclub Barcelona. Cementing a position in a squad of superstars has proved no easy task, but the boy from Tocopilla has proved his resolve is as steely as his footwork is silky, and many tip his determination will pay of with a huge season in 2013-14.
As the stars of these Chileans, and many others, rise around the world, gamers have had the chance to play out their professional football exploits for years in the most popular soccer video games on Earth: FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES).
But closer to home, Chile’s domestic league, like all of those from South America, have been left in the gaming dark ages — and undeservedly so.
Chile’s Primera División is establishing itself as a breeding ground for young talent — like recent Manchester United signing Ángelo Henríquez and Chelsea-bound Cristián Cuevas — and one of the most competitive in the CONMEBOL.
In 2011, Universidad de Chile won the Copa Sudamericana with some of the most scintillating football the continent has seen for years, and it fell agonizingly short of taking the Copa Libertadores trophy the following year.
This year’s Sudamericana is in its infancy, but “La U” rival Universidad Católica is already shaping up as a team to watch out for.
Meanwhile the only Chilean club to have won the Copa Libertadores, Colo Colo, continues to struggle with consistency. But no-one doubts its attacking firepower, and it would take a brave bookie to predict that “El Padre” of Chilean football won’t soon return to the form that has made it the most successful club in the country’s history.
But the true testament to the local league’s dynamism? None of those big three has lifted the Primera División trophy in the last two seasons — Santiago locals Unión Española took the title last time, while southern dark horse Huachipato won the season before.
So it is with bated breath football fans await the opportunity to play out the intrigues of the Primera División on both FIFA and PES.
And while the debate will continue to rage as to which game deserves the crown of best in the world, nobody can argue that both aren’t immeasurably richer with the addition of Chile’s growing football presence.