Boy Isla's forgotten time at UC: “He was a deadly striker;  wants to come back"

Mauricio Isla is one step away from sealing his return to Catholic University. If eventually released by Flamengo, the La Roja right-back will return to where his important history in Chilean football began. He arrived at the club in 1998 and, before making his debut for the first team, he left for Udinese, subsequently building a fine career abroad and also in the national team. Former striker Braulio Brizuela shared with Isla the process of forming UC and revealed details to AS about Buin’s man’s unknown move to San Carlos de Apoquindo.

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“We’ve been close friends since we were kids, we’ve shared with Mauricio since we were 11, 12 at Católica. We lived together in the San Carlos residence, we always shared a room there. To this day we are best friends and the possibility of returning to UC is clear. It’s a club he loves a lot, for everything he has given him since he was little, for him and his family too. He hopes to be able to come back, Católica has given him the weapons to get to where he is now”, said Brizuela.

– What memories do you have of this scene with Isla?

– It was a nice step and every time we meet, we remember things, anecdotes. I didn’t have my family nearby, I always stayed alone in San Carlos, when my teammates went to their families after games, and that’s when Mauro started inviting me to his home in Buin. I was able to meet the aunt, the uncles and all their family very closely. Católica gave us everything we are today as people, she always cared about every detail. And where he comes from, he must be very grateful to Católica, for giving us a study and all these things.

– Have you always been one of the actors of the projection at UC?

– Yes, Mauricio stood out a lot. They raised him two or three categories above (born in) 88. He was a guy who played all positions, for some reason he left the club very quickly. He had a projection of being able to reach Europe. As I said, he is very happy to be back at Católica. There they gave him everything he is now as a person.

Brizuela with Isla some time ago.

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Brizuela with Isla some time ago.

– In your training, did Isla stand out as an attacker?

– Yes, he got to this post and there in Buin, where he lived, he also played upstairs. Then they placed him in positions where he could have more of a future, which Católica does very well. He arrived as a striker and the club has a very great vision of the players. They backed off because they knew it would get a lot better.

– What were your defining traits as a striker?

– His greatest virtue is the intelligence to play. Before grabbing the ball, he already knew where his teammates were. In the box he was deadly, he scored a lot of goals, he was a scorer (laughs).

– Were your goals at that time to get to Europe quickly or to go through the first team first?

– When you’re there you always talk, we wanted to get to campus first. His was all very fast, he was a player to be in Europe. At the age of 17, he was already playing in the Chilean national under-20 team. At 17 or 18, he was no longer in Católica, he went to Udinese.

– So, what was Isla’s interest in the adult team?

– It was clear that he also wanted to join the national team. His first goal was to reach the Católica campus and by the age of 16 he was already training with the campus. His process was very quick compared to us, he was a different player. He played two or three categories higher and reaching the national team was a dream for him, he was confident that he would achieve it. I always knew I was going to make it, it was only a matter of time.

– Didn’t you have physical problems with older boys?

– No, because his strength was also intelligence on the ground. You never noticed he was younger. Especially when he was a central defender, he was an extraordinary guy. When the teachers saw that there were difficult matches, they raised him (in category), because they knew that he was going to perform well.

Isla and Brizuela in UC's bottom lineup with DT Mario Lepe.

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Isla and Brizuela in UC’s bottom lineup with DT Mario Lepe.

– Were there no issues with the polyfunctionality issue? Did he play where they put him?

– No, no problem, he started playing as soon as he arrived at Udinese. It seems that the two who were playing there were missing, they asked him if he could play, he said yes and did not release the position again.

– Do you think you were right to define yourself in this position?

– Yes of course. He was a smart guy to function in all areas of the court. If I was a technician, I would place him in any position. I know it will perform, I would put it on the right side without any problem.

– Both spent many years at UC, how do you think the crusader fan will receive it?

– Well, of course. Now I went last to Flamengo’s game against Católica. People applauded him a lot. The fan knows that he was trained there and there is also respect for everything he has achieved in the national team. A lot of people who are Católica fans have asked me, internally, if they’re coming to UC. They are very excited, because they know the quality of player he is. He also wants to come and, at the moment, the best institution he can reach is Católica, for everything the club has been doing lately.

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