Although the Copa America tournament is in the footballing past and confined to the history books, there will be some that still could not quite believe a Championship player had been turning out for a nation competing in the competition.
The notion is no question about the ability of players in England’s second tier, as many will already know that the league is one of the toughest and perhaps one of the most competitive outside of Europe’s “Big Five”. Indeed, many of the teams that are involved in the Championship have incredibly tough seasons as it is one of the hardest divisions to stay in, or even get out of (positively, of course).
No, the fact that Ben Brereton Diaz managed to go on and represent Chile at the major international tournament was something that came as a huge surprise to much of the footballing world, and perhaps himself, as well.
The Blackburn Rovers striker became eligible to represent the South American nation through his mother, who is from the country. Since then, his career has gone through a whirlwind over the last few months, with the player going from being relatively unknown by his own national fans (except for those who came across him in Football Manager) before becoming a poster boy for the country after featuring in a Pepsi commercial aired after his performances in the Copa America.
However, it is important to note that Brereton Diaz’s footballing career has not always been as positive as it sounds, with the forward having had somewhat a rollercoaster of a ride in the earlier years of his playing days.
Having started his career at the Manchester United academy, the forward when through a number of releases before he finally found his feet, although that did not stop him from thinking about whether to pack it all in or not.
In an interview with SPORTbible, he revealed that he questioned whether it was something that he wanted to continue to pursue, admitting that his dad also started to have doubts about whether he would make it as a professional.
Thankfully, the striker decided he would continue to try and achieve his dream, and with the support of his family, it would seem that he made the right choice as he is now enjoying the fruits of his labour just six years later.
As mentioned, his recent international stardom was not all down to his own work on the field, though, as an interview he did where he revealed the little-known fact about his mother and their nationality had helped to turn his career into what it is today.
A Football Manager game researcher happened to be in the crowd for the Blackburn Rovers game in which the information was published within a matchday programme, which saw his details within the game be updated.
This update was something that a prominent streamer in Chile quickly found and decided to test out, whilst also running with a hashtag on Twitter ‘#BreretonALaRoja’. This would then trend as a number of users picked up on it and then called for the national team to take a look.
It certainly played a role as Brereton Diaz then revealed he would receive a call from the Chilean FA shortly after it all blew up on social media and just a few months later, they would go on to watch him play every league match, home and away, for Blackburn as they signalled their interest in him representing them. Indeed, those who bet on football would have already known plenty about him as he was able to be a force within the Championship.
With his family beaming with joy and a range of emotions, Brereton Diaz admitted it was an easy decision and one that he described as a “no-brainer”, although he did reveal he had his challenges to begin with.
He admitted that the language barrier was scaring him, as well as the fact that he was not fully-fledged as a Chilean, but he need not have worried as they were all supportive of him.
However, things were tight as the documentation process almost cost him his place in the squad but he managed to overcome the issues and challenges that he faced but in hindsight, it was a small problem concerned with what he managed to achieve during the competition.
He made his first appearance in the opening game for Chile at the Copa America as a late substitute against some iconic Argentine players, before making his full debut against Bolivia a couple of days later.
In that game, he also managed to get on the scoresheet and helped his country to three points, although a draw against Paraguay and a defeat to Brazil in the knockout phase meant his competition came to an end.
In the six years that have passed since he questioned whether football was the right career move for him, Brereton Diaz has since gone on to become an international footballer in a story that many would have found difficult to write about!