There’s plenty of talk about how tapping into the Hispanic fanbase is key for MLS success in the competitive world of professional sports. Though besides some translated American news Hispanic coverage of MLS is slim. Inasmuch Jose Miguel Burgos, 26, took up the mission. Chilean-born, Chicago-based Burgos is the man behind MLS en Espanol, a Spanish language site for MLS fans that launched last year.
With little to no handle on Spanish, and knowing from reading the likes of Pablo Neruda that sometimes translations can’t convey the whole meaning, I let first-time TIAS contributor (and reader of Spanish) L.E. Eisenmenger handle it, sitting down with Burgos to work out the full story.
Their best translation after the jump…
you can contribute too. write to firstname.lastname@example.org to add your story to the Diary Project
TIAS en Espanol
By L.E. Eisenmenger
MLS en Espanol.net provides an online space for Hispanic fans (and any reader of Spanish) to comment and vent while reacting to Burgos’s passionate commentary, critical analysis, and original reporting. The hope is to attract new fans to MLS, mainly those whose allegiances lie in another country and another league. By leveraging his strong contacts throughout South America and in Europe, built throughout his years training and playing in the professional development academies in Chile, the lobbyist by-day has even been known to scoop the American media on Hispanic player movement.
Burgos is quite comfortable addressing Hispanic/American cultural complaints within his soccer commentary and talks about the sport as a way of life that he feels doesn’t exist in America. He strives to personify the passion of the game in his off-the-field life and especially in his writing. In case you can’t read it, know this much: this is not a match report in Spanish.
Patagonia. Blue line denotes a cruise ship route, but better to put on a backpack and get into some of that brown.
LE: Before we get to your blog, let’s start with you. You grew up Chile, and at 17 were captain and top scorer in the academy at Concepcion. How did you get from there to here?
Burgos: My family lives in Patagonia, the very south part of the world, the end of the world. It’s extremely cold down there - penguins, mountains, beautiful place, but it’s not really fun if you’re looking for excitement and big cities. Now I’m here, I met my wife here, have a son born in America, and it’s all because of soccer. My grandfather was a professional soccer player for a small team called Nublense, where Chase Hilgenbrinck played. Right now they’re in first division. My dad is a doctor and running for Congress next year in Chile, really successful, but completely passionate about the game. I grew up with him telling me he always wanted to be a soccer player. When I was 12, he told me we were going to see our first World Cup, so we went to the United States and saw five games, and then in four years he said, ‘Get your stuff, we’re going to France to see another World Cup.’ And in the meantime, he took me to the Copa America in Chile, then Uruguay, always trying to teach me how to look at the game, how to understand it. I was lucky he was so, so passionate about it.
To become a soccer player you have to leave your home early, so at a really early age you have to decide this is what you’re going to do. When I was 14, I was recruited by Deportes Concepcion, moved out of my city and went there alone. The coach, Carlos Gonzalez, was attracted by my audacity and ability to dribble at people. The idea for them is to develop professional soccer players. They don’t necessarily believe every one of us will be a professional, but they make sure to train you professionally so if that happens, if you leave the country, they can get some money.
I played there as an attacking midfielder until I was 17, and by then I was already playing games with the first team, and that was hard for me to handle. I was the captain of the academy, the top scorer with 17 goals in 1999, and the youngest player on the professional team. In Chile, soccer is everything. The recognition you get for being a professional soccer player is huge and there’s a lot of pressure coming from everywhere. It’s a big deal to be only 17 and practicing with professional players making money, on TV. I was partying, not wanting to train because I thought I was already there, that I didn’t need any more training than what I already had. It was a mistake, but that’s what everyone was telling me, that I was great, and it was hard to handle. I had an incident in 2000 and was kicked out. I was practicing with the professional team and the coach put me in the second half as a sub and I started walking on the field, simply walking.
L.E.: You had attitude.
Burgos: Exactly! That was my problem. So he says, ‘Why are you walking when everyone is running?’ And I said, because I don’t need to run. I was a little Cuauhtemoc Blanco right there. It’s a combination of immaturity and everybody telling you you’re so great. You have to be completely focused to understand that’s not the end, in fact, the beginning of your career. A career that I was never able to have because of that.
I never went back, I wasn’t allowed to go back. I could have, but they said with that kind of attitude . . . And then I decided I was going to stop playing soccer. But of course I changed my mind after a few months. I was kicked out of the team, I’m not really proud of that, I was immature and confused. I was completely, completely hardhearted. Worst decision I ever made. I was completely irresponsible. I can’t believe to this day that I didn’t see all I needed to do was to keep working hard. When I got fouled, the coaches would say, ‘come on, get up, you’ll have thousands of these in your career.’
So then I played at high school in Chile, and got recruited by Universidad Catolica, one of the biggest teams in Chile, again. This was for the U-20 team. Two hundred kids tried out, they came from all over the continent and I was the only one who made it, and the coach told me I could really make a difference in Chilean soccer. So there I was again thinking, I’m great! I made it again!
While I was playing with them, somebody from the United States was in Chile looking for players for a professional development team in Southern Indiana. He asked if I was willing to come to the US and play a summer tournament with PDL, so I thought, Why not? I’ll go check it out. So I came to the United States, played in Indiana for four months, and realized all these schools had soccer programs and gave scholarships – you could go to school here in America for free! So I thought, If I’m already here, and have the opportunity to get a great degree from an American university and also play soccer, this is the perfect deal.
PDL Indiana Invaders 2002. Burgos started 6 games and had one assist while playing on the first team. He also started every game for the U-21 team, scoring 7 goals. They called the team FC Raccoons because they all lived in one house, under which a giant raccoon lived.
Before I came to the United States I didn’t know college soccer programs even existed. At least 90% of Chilean soccer players have no college education. Every time I went back to Chile they had me on radio and TV shows to explain what this was about. If colleges wanted to recruit, there’s a lot of smart, talented kids sitting on the bench down in South America who would like to go to school here. You’d have to interest them at 15 or 16 so they don’t play professionally, cause if they do they can’t play here.
L.E.: So you came to the U.S. for PDL, not college?
Burgos: When I left Chile to play in PDL, thought I was going to be a professional soccer player, that was the main idea. I’d play summer tournament, do really really well, and someone will find me and I’ll go straight to A league or MLS. But when I got here, I realized the level was higher than what I expected. Players were stronger, soccer was different. I was excellent player in Chile, but here, they didn’t want me to keep possession of the ball, they wanted me to be faster and stronger. Here, the players play with urgency: ‘Wow, we need to score, we need to go forward.’ For us, we take our time, we keep possession, we move the ball, we switch fields; it’s a different style. The first time we went to Notre Dame, I couldn’t touch the ball for the first twenty minutes. These kids were flying. It was the ugliest soccer I’ve ever seen but these kids were impossible to stop and when I had the ball I didn’t have time. It was a war. In Chile whenever I got the ball, I had time, because everybody wanted time when they had the ball, too. It’s different.
L.E.: So after 4 months of PDL you turned your attention to college. Where did you end up?
I played for Robert Morris College, a small NAIA school in Springfield Illinois, the only one willing to work with me without SATs or the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language), and they gave me a full scholarship, even money to go back to Chile. It was a really, really small school. So small that when I saw the campus, I thought, I’m leaving Chile for this? This is not what I saw in the movies.
I talked to Division I, Division II schools, but every time I talked to them, because I was not really able to express myself in English either, they asked if I had an SAT or ACT and I’d say no, and they’d say, ‘maybe next year.’ I couldn’t be accepted without that. I didn’t even have the TOEFL. But these people at Robert Morris College, God knows how, had their own admission rules. I took the test the first time, math and English, and I passed math, because it’s an ancient language, but I failed the English one the first time. I was only allowed to take it twice, so then the soccer coach said, ‘don’t leave anything blank. Just guess.’ And I passed it. Everything was paid. I couldn’t refuse. I thought I’d stay for a year and try out somewhere else, but after I played one year and did so well, I thought, I’ll stay another year. After the next year I told the guy that I want to transfer out, it’s not challenging for me anymore.
The first year I won Conference Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, All-Region Best XI, and All-American mention. Second year, I was ninth in the nation with 19 assists and nine goals. Then the University of Illinois offered me a full scholarship, and I played with them for two years and got my degree in economics. But once I was done with college soccer I knew I was done completely. I felt my opportunity to be a professional was gone.
LE: How do you feel about that decision now?
Burgos: I still dream about being a pro soccer player. I wish I could have had in me what it takes. Friends still doing it tell me, ‘If you were to stay, you’d be here with us,’ so it’s something I don’t like to think about, but it defines a lot of my personality right now. The fact that I was so close, but couldn’t get there.
LE: Does that play into why you started MLS en Espanol?
Burgos: When I write, I get the same passion [as I do in soccer], and that’s why I do it. That’s something I remember reading in one of Valdano’s books. He was really afraid of retiring, but convinced he’d find something he’d be so passionate about, it would be equal to playing. I write about MLS because I need to convince myself that futbol is always beautiful, no matter where it’s from or even if it’s called soccer. I write about MLS because it’s challenging, because I decided to do it one day and I hate not following through, because I hate criticizing and destroying. I like to build instead. When I started doing this I got two visits, probably from my dad and myself. But if you have passion for something, that’s all you need.
I know this is going to take me somewhere. When I was playing soccer every day, my mom used to say, ‘You should go to law school,’ and I’d say, Mom, this is going to take me somewhere. And it did. This is the same way I feel when I write the blog, when I get phone calls, and my wife looks at me and says, ‘What’s the point?’
L.E.: Why did you decide to focus on the Spanish-speaking, Hispanic market?
The idea of the blog is to inform about MLS from a completely different perspective, through the eyes of a person who’s been around the game the game of soccer, and I think I know what Hispanics want from MLS. So I give the news that matters to them, and that’s why the title is in Spanish. If you go to the blog, and it says, ‘Una mirada futbolera a lo que realmente importa en la MLS’, which means ‘A soccer look at what really matters.’ A lot of Hispanics think a lot of people who write about MLS don’t know about soccer.
Hispanics are the only market that can get MLS to the point it wants to be. There are close to 45 million Hispanics in the US (legally) and they need a place where they can read about professional soccer where they live. The main idea is to create a place where Hispanics can say what they think about MLS and get the information they want. I write in simple Spanish, in words not too complicated for people trying to learn the language. The original idea was to have a Spanglish website because there’s a lot of first generation people that love soccer, but I tend to lose my voice and I want to make a solid statement every time I write.
LE: Why aren’t Hispanics buying into MLS?
Burgos: Hispanics want to know specific things and want to be critical about players and teams. Even if I create a site where they can just complain about it, maybe we can realize why aren’t they going to the games and following MLS. They love soccer, they’re here, and they’re not going anywhere. Most of these people don’t have the chance to go back to their countries. They’re betting people, they’re betting thousands of dollars. But I don’t think they’re getting enough information, what they want to hear about the league.
I started the blog about seven months ago. I didn’t know anything about web sites so I had to figure it out on my own, and little by little more people started asking questions, requesting things, now I know things. I can post things about David Beckham but no one ever says anything about it, that guy has no impact with Hispanic MLS fans. But they’re excited about Barcelona coming to Miami, a new team in Seattle, especially when I post essays about MLS, what I think about the direction, where they should go, the fans always have something to say and most of them have positive things to say, too. The main idea is to create a place where they can say what they think and get the information they want - what’s going on with Guillermo, Angel, Gallardo.
And on a personal level, I want to do something about MLS. I’m here, my son was born here, and I won’t be able to escape from it. I want to take my kid to watch a soccer game without having to fly 25 hours. And I’m going to do anything I can to make sure there’s a game we can attend. It’s a sentence for me, a sweet sentence. I’m destined to do something with soccer, anything, even if it’s a little website. It’s something I like, that I read about, sometimes I feel so inspired I write poetry about it (Burgos’ poetry can be found here).
Since I was a little kid, I’ve been reading about soccer’s social impact, how it changes lives, affects the world at some point. Pele stopped a civil war in Africa for two days. Tell me, who can do that? I’ve seen the world through soccer eyes and that’s the way I understand it. Francisco Maturana, who coached Columbia when they came here in 1994, used to say people live their lives the way they play soccer, and I agree with that. When I see a soccer player on the field, I can see the way he will live his life.
New Yorkers and Burgos have something in common when it comes to soccer fields. Pier 40’s soccer field/baseball field/American football field/parking garage/barge gives a good example of how hard field space is to come by in Manhattan.
L.E.: That kind of brings us to the sport here in the U.S. Coming to the States with your high stakes South American soccer development, what surprised you about the sport here?
Burgos: You have the resources here to train kids here in America, to produce players like nowhere else in the world. I find myself driving and seeing beautiful fields that we don’t have in South America, and they’re empty and it’s sad. I think of all the times when I was little and thought, I wish I could play on a field that had grass. My dad has a foundation that goes out to neighborhoods and helps people, so I grew up seeing people who have really, really little. Coming from a poor family he felt he had to do something and he became “the dentist of the poor,” that’s what they call him, “el dentito del pobre.” My dad didn’t have teeth until he was 20 – he lost his teeth in an accident when he was 13 years old and his parents couldn’t afford to pay for a dentist, so he knows how much it sucks not to have teeth. Every weekend he takes a group of doctors, lawyers, different professionals, and they go to different neighborhoods - he went to Argentina last year to help the Chilean community there that doesn’t have access to dentists. I’ve seen both worlds.
Think about the social class where soccer is played in America. It’s completely different than most of the world – England, Spain, France. Soccer comes from the poor. Here, they make it sound like in order to play soccer you have to have shin guards, a traveling team. Are you serious? You just need a soccer ball. That’s all you need! You can play barefoot, you don’t need shoes to play. But here it’s perceived completely different, almost an elite sport. The media here, the people working with MLS, need to educate people about the game. It’s not only 11 players, the goalkeeper can use his hands and the rest can’t, trying to score goals. It’s too simplistic, it’s not like that, not about the score. Most of the sports here in America are dictated by the amount of points scored, but for us the beauty is in the journey, before you get to that point. Sometimes it’s even more inspiring to see how a goal was created.
It’s hard because the audience is not educated. Even travel coaches cannot name all the MLS teams or ten players that were influential. And parents and kids question everything; it must have something to do with the culture. I love this place, but when we were playing college, kids would question authority constantly. I remember asking one of my teammates, tell me, what kind of coach do you think you deserve? Who are you to question every single f—ing thing this guy says?
L.E.: Did that bring back memories of your episode in Chile?
Burgos: I was only 18. I did not technically question my coach. I simply said I was not going to play with the reserves. I was too good for that. He asked me to leave the field, pick up my stuff and look for another team. My teammates did not say a word. They knew I made a big mistake. And of course, I am not justifying it. It was a stupid thing to say, and it was indeed disrespectful. However, I learned from it and never did it again, in Catolica nor in the U.S. The problem is probably the same one [here in the U.S.], but what I did in Chile was probably the first time anybody did something like that. I wasted my opportunity to be a professional player. And that is a huge deal.
I simply feel like here in America it is more common to question decisions when playing soccer because the consequences are different. Who cares if they get kicked out from a traveling team or the school team or if they don’t make it to MLS? How much money are they gonna make, anyway? Who is going to tell them how much they screw up? Nobody. It’s soccer. It’s not a big deal.
Burgos chips in from midfield.
LE: That being said, what’s wrong with college soccer?
[Eisenmenger addressed this topic recently at Soccerlens]
Burgos: First of all, the amount of time you spend training, it’s not right. You’ve only got the fall to play, and it’s only a 10-day preseason for most schools and after that, you just play an insane amount of games in three months. We play about 25 games in three months, even back-to-back - something I’ve never seen, playing Saturday and Sunday. The first time I played Saturday and Sunday, on Sunday I could barely walk. We just played yesterday and now we’re here again at 11 in the morning? It’s impossible to perform when you’re playing that amount of games in such a short period of time.
It’s impossible to think you can develop a professional player by letting them do whatever they want for seven months. And I was fascinated with the college lifestyle, and in a competitive sport like soccer, you can’t afford to do that. While in Chile I was practicing every day, twice a day sometimes. And in college, I always felt the technical coaching was lacking. They’re really good at strategy, but with kids here in America I saw a lack of basic skills. They’re really strong and really fast, but when it comes to technique they’re lacking a lot and eventually that always affects the performance of the team.
LE: What do kids do differently in Chile?
Burgos: That’s something I always think about because I’m training a U-13 team. In Chile, it all goes back to the fact that we imitate; we grow up watching soccer. If it’s Sunday, your dad will be watching soccer so you’ll watch it with him and then you’ll imitate. The other day we had tryouts and I asked them to write their names down and their favorite soccer player’s name next to it. Some of them had a lot of trouble finding soccer players, and they’re 14 and it’s 20 degrees out there and I’m telling them if you don’t know what soccer player, go home and play PlayStation 3. At their age they should know the history of the game, but more than anything here, kids don’t watch enough soccer. They don’t imitate. For a coach, it’s hard to explain how to do things. You just expect kids to see it and imitate what you’re doing. Here, soccer is perceived just as a game, a form of entertainment. They never want to understand why they’re doing the things they’re doing.
I’ve asked kids, that was a really good free kick, how did you do that?
‘How do you do what,’ they say.
How do you place your foot?
“I don’t know, I just move my leg.’
So you don’t think about the things you do?
soccer in Patagonia, found at Viviani galleries.
It’s almost a cultural thing. Soccer is there for them to enjoy, to socialize, but most of these kids, even at the college level, don’t think about the game the way we do. We think about it in depth. Why is Blanco still playing when he’s 36? The guy knows how to move, he can protect the ball, he’s got a really good first touch - before you even try to touch the guy, the ball is gone.
What drives me crazy is what’s happening with Gallardo on DC United. I just had to watch one game to realize how good this guy is to this league, to the point where I don’t think even his teammates realize that. The guy will constantly move, asking for the ball, playing one time, making through balls, and in five minutes nobody has given him the ball yet? Having a player like Gallardo, he can play anywhere in this world in any league, and they’re talking about letting him go? He makes the game so simple, so, so simple. But he needs help, the same with Beckham, they need the team to understand what their role is. The Fire coach understands Blanco. He knows why they guy is here, what he does, and what he can and cannot do, but the team revolves around him.
LE: Do you think MLS clubs should fully use their eight international slots or increase that number?
Burgos: They should use them. The only way to get better is to keep bringing players like the ones they have lately. MLS has gotten so much attention lately because players are coming here, good players that want to make a difference. They’re still talking about Blanco playing for the Mexican national team in Mexico, I watch Mexican news, they want the guy there. You have Gallardo, Schelotto, these players make a difference, and also with the Hispanic market. Without Hispanics, I don’t think MLS can have the league it wants to have. That’s what makes soccer so crazy for us because we have this sense of entitlement – ‘We own this team, so we’re going to support you, follow you, we’re going to watch the games.’
When Blanco came to the Fire, I’ve seen the amount of Hispanics there and they’re only there because of him. They were never there before. I don’t think that right now the United States has enough young players coming up to make this league attractive. They just don’t.
LE: What would FC Barcelona bring to MLS?
Burgos: I think it would bring attention more than anything. The way I look at it, MLS is lacking credibility with the rest of the world. I honestly think if the Fire plays against one of the giant teams we have down there, they might be able to beat them every single time. The level here is more than acceptable, it’s a good level of soccer, but MLS is lacking in credibility. When people refer to MLS they call it a joke league, a lot of players even think like that, they think they can come here and just play. I mean hell, I felt like that when I came to the United States. It’s not like that, there is a good level. But with Miami Barca, they’re going to get attention, and at this point that’s what they need.
if he didn’t have his name on the back of his jersey, would you recognize him?
Take this guy Dempsey who scored two goals recently against Chelsea - I’m pretty sure if I ask a kid who’s been playing since he was three if he knows who Dempsey is, he won’t. The soccer media, MLS public relations need to promote that he’s scoring against Chelsea and he came from MLS.
LE: This winter in the off-season, MLS allowed Beckham, Blanco to go ‘train’ with big clubs, but they’re selling tickets. If MLS clubs had stronger affiliations with foreign clubs, couldn’t the reverse be true as well? Couldn’t some of these foreign players sitting on the bench come and ‘train’ with MLS clubs during their off-season? Wouldn’t it spike ticket sales, international interest in MLS, and give these guys a chance to become known in a new league?
Burgos: Absolutely, and I think that’s why MLS is trying to do this. Some of the kids in the Barcelona academies won’t get enough playing time on the first team, because it’s Barcelona, right? But they’ll be able to come here and bring the level of the league up. It’s a good idea. MLS players need to be around better players. Until MLS can bring up young players, it’s going to have bring in foreigners, like Mexico did. If you look at Mexico 15 years ago, the Mexican league was just like the American league. For us Chileans, we used to sarcastically say, ‘this guy’s going to Mexico, he’s going to play against handicapped people.’ But they kept bringing players. Claudio Lopez, before he came to Kansas City, he played for Racing, but before that he went from Inter Milan to Club America. That’s a huge step for a league to be able to attract that kind of player. That’s how Mexico did it - they brought in foreign players. The reasoning was, ‘If our players start seeing them, learning from them, imitating them, then we’ll be able to produce our own.’ And two years ago, they won the U-17 World Cup for the very first time – that says something - now they’re producing players, that’s huge.
LE: One of the questions you have to ask is how much sports can the broadcast market bear? People made fun of Ruud Gullit when he said there was a conspiracy, but football, basketball, baseball don’t want competition cutting into their share of broadcast revenues.
Burgos: Ruud Gullit wasn’t just talking. That plays a big role. Football and baseball are part of the American culture, they almost define this country. But MLS will succeed as a league, I know this. I truly believe in MLS, I truly believe in soccer here in America. But it will be really, really hard to transport that sense of entitlement we have – soccer belongs to me, to us – it’s almost like a socialist way to look at things. If you think about it, soccer will never be what it is for other countries who have gone through that or thought about that. We’re all equal when we play soccer. Why do I think the United States cannot play the World Cup and have the whole country watching it? Because that puts this country at the same level as any other country. When I try to think of America putting soccer at the same level the rest of the world does, they also have to give up that status they have.
LE: Some of that goes back again to media, and I’m now wondering what you think of the U.S. soccer media? How does it differ from Hispanic media?
Burgos: The media here, they inform. They let you know about the score, but they lack analysis, where you can learn about the game. They’re too informative at times. I was looking for Hispanic soccer media and couldn’t find it, so I thought I should start something. Hispanic media here, they don’t watch the game, any of the game. They show the score, write a few lines, and that’s it. The American media are trying, I see that, I see passion here.
Duilio Davino fell out of favor in Dallas. Photo found at the Dallas News.
I’ve been working with MLS Rumors, and what I like about MLSR is that there’s debate, controversy, you need that, it’s necessary. The first time I got in touch with MLSR, I sent them a rumor about Duilio Davino leaving FC Dallas – that ended up being true. After that, I sent them a few more articles and they added me as one of their friends. After a few weeks, they gave me an account so I could write articles directly into their site. The idea to work with MLSR was mainly to increase my exposure and traffic, and it’s helped a lot. My visits increased and people started getting familiar with my site and the fact that I was writing about MLS in Spanish.
There are other good sites that have a strong point of view and are passionate, too. And those two guys talking on Fox Soccer Channel Monday nights, they’re not bad, they know what they’re doing.
LE: You’ve scooped the U.S. media a few times. Where you get your information, such as transfer tips, for your blog?
Burgos: I get my information from friends, players, agents in Latin America and from all the traditional newspapers and magazines available on the Internet. I do lots and lots of research. I have my own way to do it, though, and that’s a secret. Bottom line is, if something that involves MLS happens in Latin America, I will be the first one to find out, and if I find it relevant I’ll post it. Players are either talking because they want attention or maybe they do want to come here. Players are seeing this league growing too, especially after this year with Schelotto winning the Cup. I got a lot of hits from Argentina that day, more than ever.
LE: Why do South American players want to come to MLS now?
Burgos: Because of the organization. They know they might not get that craziness, that rush from playing a game with crazy people singing, but they like that it’s organized, that they’re building their own soccer fields and they’re nice and clean, and you get paid in time. If you’re 30-something like Schelotto you get time off, and people won’t bother you the way they do in Chile. If you play for the smallest team, you’ll go to the street and people will start questioning what you do – here in America people are more respectful. That’s attractive for many players. In America you can go to a game and drink beer. Where else can you do that? The referee would be dead within five minutes. People die over soccer in South America, it’s not a peaceful place to play soccer.
The fans are really fascinating in South America. The things you see in Latin America when it comes to futbol are just insane. The last time I went to the stadium in Chile I decided I wasn’t going to do it again, at least not the main stadium. It felt unsafe. That’s one of the things I like about MLS compared to Latin America, I could take my child to the stadium, but in Chile I would never do that. It has a lot to do that they come from really poor areas, there’s a lot of repression there. In fact, Garra Blanca has a really cool story. It started in the 80s while we had Pinochet as a dictator, for 17 years, in Chile, and it was sort of protesting through soccer games. They expressed whatever they wanted to say through songs in games. It started like that, almost like a political movement. But once Chet left, there was no reason to keep doing it but they stay there, they support the team, but they’re taking it way too far. In Chile we have two big teams, Colo-Colo and Universidad Chile, and these people cannot even see each other. The same in Argentina, now they’re having it in Mexico, it becomes almost like a place for criminals. Some of those kids don’t even watch the game, but they follow the team. I think we all wish we could watch a game the way you watch it in Toyota Park.
When two big teams in Chile play against each other that’s just a war that makes no sense. Some of the players want to come here to escape from that craziness. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of players, especially the ones that already made money and achieved what they wanted to achieve, think MLS looks like a good place to go. It’s growing, it’s organized, they’re responsible – even European teams are looking at the MLS organization financially because they’re doing well, they’re responsible with their money. They’re trying to grow slowly and responsibly.
LE: On a final note, I’m curious as to who your favorite writers are?
Burgos: One of my favorite authors is Mario Benedetti, Uruguayan. He writes everything – poetry, novels, mainly short stories. He has a good short story called Puntero Izquierdo, which means [something like] “left forward,” back in the days when they used to play with three forwards. And Jorge Valdano, who was actually a soccer player for Real Madrid, Saragosa, and Argentina, and scored the second goal in 1986 when Argentina beat Germany 3-2 in the final. He was Real Madrid’s coach in 1994-95 and now he’s working as Real Madrid’s director or general manager or something. But he’s the only professional soccer player who’s done work in literature, writing books, short stories, essays, he’s almost like a soccer philosopher. His words and way to express what he has experienced is more graphic and can totally take you to that moment. I think he has them in English. His book that totally changed the way I perceived soccer is Suenos de Futbol (Soccer Dreams), and a short story, Creo, vieja, que tu hijo la cago. And there’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow (Futbol a Sol y Sombra) by Eduardo Galeano, really fascinating. It has little essays, short stories, and he talks about players, World Cup, how scoring a goal feels, he tries to cover every aspect of the game. He’s a good writer.