Elías Figueroa

Elías Figueroa
Personal information
Full name Elías Ricardo Figueroa Brander
Date of birth (1946-10-25) 25 October 1946
Place of birth Valparaíso, Chile
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)
Playing position Sweeper / Central Defender
Youth career
1962–1964 Santiago Wanderers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1966 Santiago Wanderers 54 (0)
1964Unión La Calera (loan) 30 (0)
1967–1972 Peñarol 214 (7)
1972–1976 Internacional 336 (27)
1977–1980 Palestino 118 (6)
1981 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 22 (0)
1981–1982 Colo-Colo 17 (0)
Total 791 (40)
National team
1966–1982 Chile 47 (2)
Teams managed
1994–1996 Palestino
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Elías Ricardo Figueroa Brander (born 25 October 1946 in Valparaíso) is a Chilean former football player. He is widely regarded by several pundits as Chile's greatest footballer of all time as well as one of the greatest defenders of all time.

Figueroa played for several clubs during his long career, notably his hometown club Santiago Wanderers, Brazilian club Internacional and Uruguayan club Peñarol. He also represented Chile 47 times, appearing in three FIFA World Cups, in 1966, 1974, and 1982.

Figueroa was noted for his elegant style of play, his composure in the centre of defense and his ability to cut out opposition attacks and immediately launch counterattacks from the back with his passing. He was also praised throughout his career for being a gentleman on and off the pitch. He was twice awarded the Bola de Ouro, the Brazilian Player of the year award whilst playing for Internacional in 1972 and 1976. He was also awarded the South American Footballer of the Year three times in a row by Venezuelan newspaper El Mundo in 1974, 1975 and 1976. He was named Best Player in Uruguay in 1967 and 1968, and Best Player in Chile in 1977 and 1978. After retiring, he was named one of the world's 125 best living soccer players by Pelé in 2004, and was also voted 8th best South American and 37th best player in the world of the 20th Century by the IFFHS in 1999.

In March 2011 he revealed that he was considering entering the FIFA Presidential election.

Early life and youth career

Figueroa was born in Valparaíso, Chile on 25 October 1946. He began playing football in Chile with Florida High Quilpué, and later joined the youth system of his hometown club Santiago Wanderers in 1962.

Club career

Early career in Chile

Figueroa began his professional career in 1963, when, at the age of 16, he appeared in the first division of the Chilean professional football league, playing for the Santiago Wanderers first team. He was later sent on loan to Unión La Calera in 1964. Later that year, at age of just 17, he was called up to the Chilean national youth team.

Success with Peñarol

His performances attracted interest from several foreign teams, and following the South American Championship in Montevideo in 1967, he was acquired by Uruguayan side Peñarol later that year. He spent several years with the Uruguayan club, where he experienced one of his most successful periods in domestic football. He won the Uruguayan Championship with the club in 1967, 1968 and 1969, and was elected the best player in the Uruguayan Championship in 1967 and 1968.

Continued success with Internacional

By then Figueroa had established himself as a well-developed and highly regarded athlete; however, he was looking to develop his skills further, and his talents caught the attention of Brazilian executives. He was acquired by Brazilian club Internacional de Porto Alegre in 1972, where he had an equally successful spell, winning the Brazilian championship in 1975 and 1976, and also winning five Campeonato Gaúcho Championships with the team; in 1974, the club won all of their 18 games to claim the title.[1] Elias Figueroa was the central figure of the team, and is well remembered by the club's fans for his famous "Illuminated goal" in the club's victory over Cruzeiro in the 1975 "Brasileirao" final.[2] He was elected the Brazilian league's best central defender during the 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976 seasons, winning the Bola de Prata, and was voted the Brazilian League's Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976, winning the Bola de Ouro Award. He won further acclaim when he succeeded Pelé in being named the South American Footballer of the Year in 1974, 1975 and 1976, fighting off competition from several other world class South American footballers, such as his teammate Falcão, as well as Rivelino, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto Torres, Zico, Nelinho, Marinho Chagas, Teófilo Cubillas, Héctor Chumpitaz, Mario Kempes, Roberto Perfumo, and Daniel Passarella.[3]

Later career in Chile and the United States

Shortly after his time in Brazil, Figueroa returned to his homeland in 1977, joining Palestino, with whom he won the Chilean National Championship in 1977 and 1978, also being named the Best Player in Chile in both of those seasons. Like many prominent ageing figures in world football at the time, in 1981 he went to the United States, where he played in the North American Soccer League for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Finally, he returned to Chile once again later that year, transferring to Colo-Colo in Santiago, where he ended his career. In 1982, after a 20-year career, he officially retired from professional football. In total he amassed an impressive 22 titles.

International career

Figueroa earned 47 caps and scored two goals for the Chilean senior national football team between 1966 and 1982.[4]

He was the captain of the Chile national side on many occasions, and even captained the Chilean squad through their most successive era to date, when they qualified for three World Cups. He played in the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England, and also featured prominently in the 1974 FIFA World Cup in Germany, where he was elected the best central defender of the tournament, despite Chile's poor performance in the competition.[5] He also later took part in the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. In 1974 Figueroa was elected the best central defender of the tournament and member of the all-star team of World Cup.[5]

He was also captain when they finished third in the South American Championship 1967 and a remarkable second place in the Copa América 1979.

Playing style

Known as "Don Elías", Figueroa was noted for having a keen ability to anticipate attacks as a defender with his great reading of the game and tight marking ability. Figueroa also had the ability to start counter-attacks from the back-line thanks to his composure on the ball, vision, and good range of passing. His playing style as a sweeper was frequently compared to Franz Beckenbauer, but while the German often looked for long, killer balls upfield, Figueroa typically used shorter, incisive passes to spring his teammates forward. Figueroa was also a threat in the final third of the pitch, often marauding forward to lay on goals for other players or strike on goal with his powerful shot. Figueroa remembers: "when I played in Brazil, I always did a play in which the wing back and the winger retained the ball while I would advance unmarked and make a central attacking run".[6] Possessing good technical skills, Figueroa was also a physical presence, good in the air, and strong in one-on-one situations as a central defender. Known for his leadership, he also had a reputation of being a clean and fair player. Only once in his entire career was he shown a red card and was selected as captain for every team he played for. According to journalist Nelson Rodrigues, Figueroa was "elegant, as an earl dressed in suit, and dangerous as a Bengal Tiger. Elias Figueroa was the perfect defender."[7]

After retirement


After retiring, Figueroa later became a television sports commentator for Chilean and Brazilian football, and was also successful in his new profession.

Coaching career

In December 2006, Figueroa served as coach when Chile played a friendly game against Aragon.

Potential FIFA Presidential Run

On March 25, 2011 Figueroa was chosen as ChangeFIFA's candidate to clean up FIFA following the scandal-hit 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid race last year. Unless Figueroa is nominated by a national federation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter's only opponent in the elections on June 1 will be Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam. ChangeFIFA co-director David Larkin said that if FIFA members denied one of their own legendary players the right to stand for president, "it will only prove to show that FIFA has become an exclusive and undemocratic club of an elite few who will stop at nothing to prevent their loss of privilege and power". Figueroa told Brazil's leading sports newspaper, Lance!: "My idea, which is also theirs, is to change some things in football, make it better. I still cannot give details, but, if the nomination is confirmed, we will reveal."[8]

However, on March 31, 2011, Figueroa said in a statement he had decided not to accept because "in such a short period of time I could not develop a case worthy of the magnitude and importance of such a distinguished job".[9]


In 1999 Figueroa received the honorable mention of being one of the top eleven players from Latin America and in the same year he was part of a select group of the Great Masters Cup in a ceremony held in Cannes, France.

His time playing in Brazil was so successful that some local journalists divided his career in the South American nation "before and after Figueroa." Single lineage heads the list of all Chilean players to date.



  • Champion of Primera División Uruguaya: 1967 and 1968
  • Winner of Intercontinental Champions Super Cup: 1969
  • Winner of Honour Tournament: 1967
  • Winner of Cuadrangular Tournament: 1968
  • Winner of Montevideo Cup: 1971


Distinctions Year
Best player of the world by the FIFA[10][11][12][13] 1975, 1976
All-Star Team of 1974 FIFA World Cup[14] Best defense of the tournament[15] 1974
South American Footballer of the Year[16] 1974, 1975, 1976
Third place South American Footballer of the Year 1977
Best South American defense of the year[11] 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977
Best global defense of the year[11] 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977
Bola de Ouro Brazil's best player[11] 1972, 1976
Bola de Prata Brazil's best defense of the year 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976
Best player of Uruguay[3] 1967, 1968, 1971
Best foreigner player of the century in Brazil [17] 2001
Best foreigner player of the century in Uruguay 2000
Best footballer of the year in Chile 1966, 1981
Best sportsman of the year of Chile 1981
Chilean Footballer of the History of Circle of Sports Journalists of Chile[18] 1999
N° 37 The World's best Player of the Century IFFHS[19] 1999/2000
N° 8 South America best Player of the Century IFFHS[20] 1999/2000
N° 1 Chilean best Player of the Century IFFHS[21] 1999/2000
N° 1 South America best Defender of the Century IFFHS[20] 1999/2000
List FIFA 100 of Pelé 2004
Member of South American Team of the 20th Century[22] 1999
Member of historical team by the American Cup[23][24][25][26] 2011
Member of Dream Team of Peñarol of all time[27] 2002
Member Bicentennial Team of Santiago Wanderers[28] 2010
Most influential footballer in the history of Sport Club Internacional of Porto Alegre.[29] 2012
Placar magazine (Brazil) N 19° in published a list of the best 100 players of all time[30] 1999
Playboy Brazil magazine N 13° in published a list of voted among the best in history[31] 2005
World Soccer magazine; selected in published a list of the best 50 players of all time[32] 2010
Sports Illustrated Latino; Elected at the eleventh ideal of the past 50 years of South American football[33] 2012
Distinction as Ambassador to the UN by the Sports Program for Development and Peace[34] 2002
Distinction of the order "Knight of Rio Branco" granted by the Federative Republic of Brazil[34][35] 2000
Award of CONMEBOL by exalt to South American soccer[36][37][38] 2009
Member of the Walk of Fame Stadium Maracana[39] 2000
Was nominated constantly to Selection of the World and South America from 19 years 1966–1982
Was only player alongside Hugo Sánchez that has participated in three World Cups alternately 1966– 1974- 1982
Sent off just once in 18-year career[5] 1965–1983
Was captain in all teams where he played 1966–1982

See also


  1. "Blogger". oncenasdefutbol.blogspot.com.
  2. "Home - Clube - História - O Dono do Brasil - Anos 70 - O Octacampeonato Gaúcho" (in Portuguese). internacional.com - Site oficial. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  3. 1 2 Video on YouTube
  4. "Appearances for Chile National Team". RSSSF. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 FIFA.com (25 January 2012). "Figueroa, Chile's defensive commander".
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-21. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  7. Clarín.com. "Planeta RedondoElías Figueroa, el dueño del área".
  8. "ChangeFIFA Urges Federations to Back South American Legend's Challenge to Blatter Presidency". www.worldfootballinsider.com.
  9. "Battle for FIFA Presidency is Between Blatter and Bin Hammam". worldfootballinsider.com.
  10. AS, Diario (16 October 2015). "Los retos de la generación dorada".
  11. 1 2 3 4 S.A.P., El Mercurio (2 January 2004). "Elías Figueroa y las razones para ser uno de los 100 mejores de la historia - Emol.com".
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-07. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  13. "eliasfigueroa.com". www.eliasfigueroa.com.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  15. "Figueroa, Chile's defensive commander". FIFA.com. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  16. "South American Coach and Player of the Year". www.rsssf.com.
  17. S.A.P., El Mercurio (9 January 2001). "Elías Figueroa agradeció distinción entregada en Brasil - Emol.com".
  18. Reyes, Luis Antonio (26 October 2007). "Prensafutbol.cl: Elías Figueroa fue elegido el mejor futbolista chileno de todos los tiempos".
  19. "IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics)". Iffhs.de. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  20. 1 2 "IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics)". Iffhs.de. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  21. "IFFHS' Players and Keepers of the Century for many countries". www.rsssf.com.
  22. "Latest Soccer News, Results, Schedules, Transfer News". Soccer Times. Archived from the original on 2017-08-06. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  23. Cooperativa.cl. "Elías Figueroa integra el once sudamericano de todos los tiempos - Cooperativa.cl".
  24. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  25. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  26. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  27. S.A.P., El Mercurio (29 December 2002). "Elías Figueroa presente en el equipo soñado de Peñarol - Emol.com".
  28. "Página 12 - La Estrella de Valparaíso - 16.08.2012".
  29. LUN. "Página 23 - LUN, martes, 18 de diciembre de 2012".
  30. "The Best x Players of the Century/All-Time". www.rsssf.com.
  31. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  32. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  33. S.A.P., El Mercurio. "Palo a palo". diario.elmercurio.com.
  34. 1 2 S.A.P., El Mercurio (14 August 2000). "El reconocimiento a Don Elías - Emol.com".
  35. S.A.P., El Mercurio (16 August 2000). "Gobierno brasileño distinguió a Elías Figueroa - Emol.com".
  36. "Elías Figueroa suma un nuevo galardón". www.mercuriovalpo.cl.
  37. S.A.P., El Mercurio (26 January 2009). "Conmebol premiará a Elías Figueroa, Carlos Caszely y Jaime Pizarro - Emol.com".
  38. "Don Elías es premiado". www.estrellanorte.cl.
  39. http://www.maracana.proderj.rj.gov.br/historia_maracanaI.asp%5Bpermanent+dead+link%5D
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