Chile’s performances at this year’s Homeless World Cup so far reflect their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Having won the trophy on two previous occasions—the last in 2014 in their native Santiago—the team is hoping to become the first side to win the cup on three occasions.
Chile captain Matias Vilches has impressed with some wonderful displays for his team throughout the tournament, and the 24-year-old from Nueva Imperial in the south of the country is convinced his team can go on to win the trophy.
“We have won nearly all our games so far, apart from the defeat to Hungary. But that is football. It’s about comebacks. We arrived here prepared to have a good tournament, and with the team playing as it is I’m confident we can achieve the objective we set of going back to Chile as champions.”
With Chile part of a three-strong South American contingent alongside Argentina and Brazil, he feels that the differing styles of play to that of the European nations has made for some good, watchable football.
“It’s been complicated playing against teams from different countries. There are a lot of factors in play. The European teams are physically superior to the South American teams where as we are technically better. It’s a good clash that allows for a fine balance to be had during the games.”
Off the field, Vilches and his teammates are enjoying being part of a cosmopolitan tournament featuring players from countries around the globe.
“It’s my first time in Europe and it’s a really nice experience. Obviously being away from Chile we are getting to know different ways of life and different cultures, and this is good for all of us. And we are continuing to learn a lot the more time we spend here.”
And with one eye on reaching Saturday’s final, Vilches realises the importance football has played in changing his and others’ lives through his country’s street football set up.
“All of us have had problems concerning drug use or homelessness, and street football has given each of us a chance to leave that behind us. Thanks to football, what was once one path has now became two paths that we can go down. With football, we are going down the right path.”