Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Chilean defenseman Elias Figueroa was voted Footballer of the Year in South America. Born in 1946, Elias Ricardo Figueroa Brander is one of the least known great football players – he never played in Europe and at the World Cup Chile impressed no one. Ditto for Figueroa. Since the South Americans as a whole failed to impress in 1974, no attention was paid to the best footballer of the continent. Some information is needed here, therefore.
In 1974 Figueroa was playing for Internacional, Porto Alegre, Brazil – one of the best teams of the country at the time. But the Chilean import was not just one of the squad – he already had played for Union, La Calera (1964) and Santiago Wanderers (1965-66) in his native Chile and was good enough to be included in the national squad for the 1966 World Cup. Then he moved to Uruguay, playing for Penarol from 1967 to 1971, when he transferred to Internacional, Porto Alegre. So far he won two Uruguayan championships with Penarol – 1967 and 1968. He was voted the best player in Uruguay in the the same years. In 1972 was voted best player of Brazil. He stayed with Internacional until 1977, winning two Brazilian championships. In 1977 he returned to Chile to play for Palestino. Was voted best player of the year in Chile for 1977 and 1978. In 1978 he was Chilean champion with Palestino and stayed with the club until 1980. Played 1981-82 season for Fort Lauderdale Strikers, USA and NASL, and returned to finish his career in Colo-Colo, Chile – his last 1982-83 season ended with one more championship title. In total, Figueroa played 818 club games, scoring 38 goals in 4 different countries. He is voted best all-time Chilean player, and deservingly so – in South America he was considered the best central defenseman in the world at the mid-1970s. In 1974 Figueroa played his second World Cup, but this not his last – he also played in the 1982 World Cup, when he was 36 years old. For Chile he played 70 games, scoring 2 goals, between 1966 and 1982. And typically for him, he was not voted South American Footballer of the Year just once – but it was his first continental award in 1974. Too bad the football world (meaning arrogant Europe) never really learned who Figueroa was.