Saturday, April 25, 2015

25 April 1936 - A Born Fighter

On 25 April 1936, Leonel Sánchez, Chile's record cap-holder for an outfield player, was born in Santiago.

A left winger, Sánchez began his professional career in 1953 with Universidad de Chile, where he would remain for seventeen years and win six league titles (1959, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1969). In 1955, he made his first appearance for the Chilean national team in a 1-1 draw with Brazil. He would go on to earn a team-record 84 caps between 1955 and 1968. (The record was later beaten by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who currently sits at 89 appearances).

He was a key member of the team that finished third in the 1962 World Cup, scoring four goals to tie five other players as the tournament's top scorer. He scored two of those goals in Chile's opening match, a 3-1 group stage win over Switzerland.

Chile's next match, played on 2 June, was the infamous "Battle of Santiago" in which several fights broke out and two Italian players were sent off. One of the Italians ejected was Mario David, who was sent off for kicking Sánchez in the head. Sánchez had first punched David, but escaped punishment. Sánchez also broke the nose of Italy's Humberto Maschio with a punch, but somehow again avoided punishment as Chile won the match 2-0. They eventually lost to Brazil in the semi-finals, but finished in third place with a 1-0 win over Yugoslavia in the consolation match.

Sánchez left Universidad in 1969 over a contract dispute and played for three other Chilean teams before retiring in 1973.

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