Mark Gonzalez could well be the only player in Chile’s 2010 FIFA World Cup™ squad who will not feel like a fish out of water on the pitches of South Africa this summer. Born in Durban in 1984, Gonzalez has established himself as a regular on La Roja’s left flank, impressing fans and coach Marcelo Bielsa alike with his speed, strength and skill.
Son of a former Santiago Wanderers player, Raul Gonzalez, who tried his luck in the South African league during the 1980s, Gonzalez junior arrived on Chilean shores at the age of 10. He signed professional forms with Universidad Catolica in 2002, before following in his father’s footsteps by taking his skills abroad, first to Albacete in Spain, and then to Real Sociedad, Liverpool, Betis and finally to CSKA Moscow, his current club.
Blessed with a powerful shot, ‘Speedy’ is virtually impossible to stop in full flight. His marauding runs down the left invariably culminate in dangerous crosses into the middle or worthwhile strikes from the edge of the area.
Gonzalez gained his first cap for La Roja in a friendly match against Honduras in 2003. Juvenal Olmos, Chile’s coach at the time, subsequently included him in his 2004 Copa America squad, but he saw no playing time. Under Nelson Acosta, next to take over the reins of the national team, Gonzalez enjoyed better fortune, taking part in eight qualifying matches for Germany 2006 and four during the Copa America campaign the following year.
Marcelo Bielsa has shown faith in Gonzalez since the very beginning of his tenure, fielding the attack-minded wide man on 13 occasions during the South Africa 2010 qualifying stages, a morale boost for which Gonzalez is very grateful: “I feel valued; otherwise Bielsa wouldn’t play me. It’s made me feel like I'm an important part of the team. When I was injured, it was this thought that kept me going.”