Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez of Inter Milan, former Barcelona and Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, and now, Ben Brereton of Blackburn Rovers; a somewhat unusual assortment of names, but all united on common ground when they were called up to represent their country at the 2021 Copa America.
The Rovers forward was among esteemed company when lining up alongside his Chile team-mates, but he more than matched their abilities and set the tournament alight, despite not speaking a word of the native language.
La Roja were beaten by Brazil in the Quarter-Final, but not before the 22-year-old was named alongside Lionel Messi in a Group Stage best starting line-up. And despite being over 7,000 miles away from Ewood Park, he felt right at home in South America.
“The night before I was flying, I was starting to get nervous because it’s such a big deal,” he remarked, in the latest episode of the Official EFL Podcast. “With the players in the Chile squad, it’s incredible what they’ve done over the years, winning the Copa America twice and stuff like that.
“Going over there was nerve-wracking, thinking if I’d get accepted with me being from England, but they were brilliant. The moment I got there, it felt like home. All the lads, the coaches and the whole country got behind me.”
Brereton Diaz – the name he now sports on the back of his Blackburn Rovers jersey – was eligible to represent Chile via his mother, who was born and raised in the country before emigrating to Stoke-on-Trent.
She faced the same cultural boundaries that the Rovers forward encountered when boarding a plane to Brazil to play for Chile in the tournament, although Brereton has vowed to perfect the national anthem ahead of his next call-up.
“My mum came over when she was around 14 or 15 with my grandad and her two sisters,” he explained. “She didn’t know any English when I was born.
“When she was learning, she didn’t really speak Spanish to me because it was hard for her to pick up the English if she was still speaking Spanish so she kind of forgot about speaking Spanish. If you met my mum now, you’d think she was born in England – you couldn’t tell she was from Chile!
“I talk to my family now in a little bit of Spanish to keep it ticking over and I’m doing lessons twice a week. Hopefully, I’ll pick it up!”
It was by pure coincidence that Brereton Diaz was picked up by Chile. After an interview appeared in the Blackburn Rovers matchday programme and a group of Football Manager enthusiasts got wind of his heritage, a social media campaign was launched to notify the national team of his eligibility.
And although he’s never met any of his Chilean family, he’s hoping to pay them a visit on his next international outing.
“In one of the Blackburn programmes, I did an ‘A to Z’,” he said. “They asked me a question for something people don’t know about me and I said I was half Chilean. This was two or three years ago.
“When I started scoring a couple of goals, someone picked that up. It got around quick and by the time I knew it, they were asking if I wanted to go and play for them. It was a crazy time.
“I only got told about it last season at Preston away just after the game. I wasn’t thinking much about it but when it came down to it and they suggested it to me, it was a no-brainer. I wasn’t considering anything else when such a big team like that wanted me to play for them. It was a massive honour.”