Hugo Sotil, Peruís Version Of George Best

Published: 23rd June 2011
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Sotil is the one in the middle.





An article about one of international footballís most interesting characters as well as one of the playerís who in the 70s put Peruís football among the best in the world.





There are football players who in the past were simply great and though perhaps they did not win many titles or even score many goals; they did leave found memories of their abilities. These memories not being left so much in their statistics or in how many winning teams they were on but in the wonderful plays they made. In the way they could make difficult plays look easy or how they allowed us to see the beauty of the game of football. This sometimes even in plays which did not always lead to goals yet left on impression on those who saw them.





These players having the ability to control a ball in a fashion which could make us believe that they were doing so not with their feet or bodies but with their imagination. As if the ball was so much in their power that they could do almost anything their hearts desired with it. They being able to make a ball do what the great painters did with their brushes when they too created the wonderful works of art which made them famous through out history. It being these players who like those artists created plays which must be seen to be fully appreciated, for like the great works of art; can not be measured by mere numbers but require that they be witnessed by our own eyes. This so that we might judge them with wisdom while enjoying their beauty like fine wine which must be tasted to be fully appreciated. These being players who not only made plays but invented plays, which in a way transformed and advanced the game of football like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini did with the art of music.





There are many players of the kind I have described such as Maradona, Cruyff, Keegan, Baggio, Antognoni, Best, Garrincha just to name a few yet there is one whom I definitely feel should be added to this list. His name being "Hugo Alejandro Sotil Yerťn", who in his native Peru is commonly known to his fans as "(1)El Cholo" Sotil.





The year was 1977 and the game of football was a complete novelty to me as well as being one which everyday drew more and more of my interest in wanting to learn as much as I could about it. This after having seen Italy qualify to the world cup even if it had been on a loosing effort which got them to Argentina 78. It was also during that time that I saw other qualification matches to the world cup yet if my memory serves me well; one of the matches I saw was between Peru and Bolivia. It being a case that Bolivia needed a win to qualify to Argentina 78 while a draw sufficed for Peru to achieve the same objective. This due to Peruís having only lost to Brazil by 1-0 as opposed to Bolivia; who had lost to Brazil by 8-0. All of which in a group formed by Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in which the first two would qualify for the world cup.





I really did not know anything about Peruvian or Bolivian football at the time expect what I saw in the pre-game interviews which included videos of the games both teams had played to get to this point. It being in these videos that I saw how Bolivia had eliminated Uruguay to get to where they now where while Peru had eliminated both Ecuador and Chile. I, for my part did not take any notice of any of the Bolivian players yet on the Peruvian team one player made a most favorable impression on me. This player being precisely Hugo Sotil who was commonly referred to as "El Cholo" though I did not know what this word meant at the time nor did I really care; as he seemed like the sort of player who was nice to watch.





Hugo Sotil, I would later find out was more known for his dribbling abilities which I would definitely say were comparable to those of Maradona, than anything else yet the first thing I ever saw him do; was score a goal with his head. It being incredible how somebody so short could get of such a powerful header to score a goal. It being this goal which allowed Peru to go up 1-0 over Chile. Another goal would come Peruís way and who should create it but Sotil. It being a shot of his which Chileís goalkeeper failed to control which another Peruvian player named Oblitas managed to pick up and score from.





As for Sotil, he was 28 years old at the time and apart from being short (perhaps even more so than Maradona) had skin which was much darker than any other person I had seen before who was not black. In all this, I wish to make it clear that I am not saying this to offend anybody in any way but just to point out the first thing I noticed about Sotil; naturally apart from his apparent ability as a football player. It being then that somebody explained to me why he was called "Cholo" as he in fact was a Peruvian Indian.





The game started and despite Bolivia being the team which was required to win; it was Peru who did most of the attacking. Peru even going on to win by 5-0 over Bolivia with their goals being scored by Cubillas (2), Sotil (2) and Rojas (1). Overall it had been a good performance by Peru specially since they were not required to win in order to qualify to the world cup yet despite the fact; they delighted their fans with a 5 goal victory. It perhaps being Sotil who was Peruís best player as he not only scored but showed a style of playing football which I had not seen amongst any of Italyís players.





Italian players being talented of course but there was something about Sotil which seemed like he just enjoyed playing that game just for its own sake which did not always include scoring goals. It being as if to him that was not even the point of the game but what was important to him was to simply have fun. Sotilís style, I would later find out was most typical of the South American way of playing the game which included a fine control of the ball which though perhaps did not include so much speed or physical strength or even calculated passes; was pleasant to watch as well as effective. Sotilís attitude toward the game being similar to that of the great Brazilian player Garrincha, who also had a way of playing the game which dribbled the ball in almost every direction. Garrincha almost daring opposing defenders to come and take it away from him.





I also remember my father making the comment that Sotil was a player he knew well from his time in Barcelona where he had had played for three years before his return to Peru. My father telling me at the time something which in a way seemed strange. It being that Sotil was the kind of player who set up goals for others instead of scoring them himself which seemed most odd to me after having seen him score two goals against Bolivia and one against Chile though I had also seen him set up a goal.





This being a time in my life in which my newly found interest in football led to my reading about different players; some of which were from footballís past. Of course with the internet not being available in those days, I was not able to learn as much as I would have wanted to; much less see videos like the kind which are so readily at oneís disposal now a days on youtube. I however managed to find out that Sotil had scored 33 goals in 111 games while at Barcelona which impressed me considerably. Specially since Sotil was not said to be a goal scorer like I knew that for example Germanyís Gerd Muller was nor was he the player on his team in charge of taking penalties. All of which making Sotilís number of goals scored all the more remarkable considering these factors.





It was before 1978 that I became a football fan and it was in the time leading up to the world cup that I not only read a lot about the game but saw several matches not only from that time but from the past. These mostly being matches from the previous world cup in Germany yet they did include games from Mexico 70 in which Sotil along with other great players had been outstanding. It being Sotil who despite not being a starter had played well in every one of Peruís games and had set up two goals for Cubillas against Morocco and one against Brazil. It, in fact was a lovely play by Sotil against Morocco which created Peruís first goal. As it left Cubillas with nothing to do but tap the ball in to a completely unguarded Moroccan goal just a meter from the goal line. Cubillasís second goal also being the work of Sotil, who clearly could have scored it himself yet chose to pass it when he too had a clear shot at goal from inside the penalty box yet chose to pass it to Cubillas; who did not let him down by missing an opportunity like the one he was being presented with.





It was however against Brazil that Peru would loose yet in Peruís second goal; Sotil would play a vital role. Sotil setting up Cubillas for his shot which found the back of the Brazilian net to put Peru within striking distance at 3-2 though Brazil would go on to win by a score of 4-2. Peru had qualified to the world cup that year yet to many a Peruvian, it was still that team which had played in Mexico 70 which they looked to for inspiration. As it was that very team which had been the first one to qualify to the world cup on their own merits. This as opposed to Uruguay 30 in which Peruís participation had been due to invitation.





Of course, another factor which endeared Peruís team of 1970 to their fans was the fact that on their way to the world cup they had eliminated Argentina. It being Argentina, who prior to this world cup had never failed to qualify to a world cup and as a matter fact till this day; Peru still remains the only team to have ever accomplished the task of qualifying to a world cup at Argentinaís expense. Peruís 1970 team being as adored by their fans as Polandís 1974 team is adored by their fans, who till this day remember how they beat England 2-0 in Poland and later returned to get a memorable draw at Wembley Stadium which guaranteed their place in Germany 74. This a similar situation to Peru who against Argentina first won by 1-0 in Lima and then held Argentina to a 2-2 draw in Buenos Airesís famous "Bombonera" stadium.





I have noticed that every country has a team they look to for inspiration and though that team did not necessarily win; it provided inspiration for future generations not only in their country but outside as well. This being the case with teams such as the Netherlands in 74 or France in 82 or Portugal in 66 or Italy in 70. As for Sotil, he was part of that Peruvian team which participated in Mexico 70 and though he was not part of the team when it qualified; he did play a vital role as a substitute coming of the bench. Sotilís role being similar to the one Gianni Rivera played coming in off the bench for Mazola.





Football stories had become very interesting to me as I read about players such as Beckenbauer, Pele, Cruyff, Rivera, Best, Platini along with many others which in fact were too many to mention. As for Sotil however I unfortunately found out that he had had problems with drinking and other excesses which though not as harmful as drugs; had caused his form to suffer. This also being the problems which had been experienced by George Best, who many consider to be a great player whose career was prematurely ended due to problems dealing with alcohol along with womanizing.





Sotil being a player, who many even consider to have been better than his Alianza Lima teammate Cubillas when it came to sheer talent but did not achieve as much given his lifestyle. Sotil would have two last good years with Alianza Lima where he again despite not being a goal scorer did manage to score an amazing 23 goals in 48 league games. This being practically one goal every two games for his team which along with Cubillas and several other members of Peruís national team at the time; won the Peruvian "primera division" in both 77 and 78.





Sotil however would undergo surgery in 78 before the world cup which led to his again not being a starter on Peruís team yet did play in most of Peruís matches though not as well as he did in 70. This however more due to the operation he underwent than anything else though strangely enough few people in Peru were even aware of this operation at the time. Sotil played on till 84 though he was clearly not the same player he had been in the early 70s. As personal problems which included alcoholism had stifled his career along with injuries like they had done with George Bestís yet like the great Irish player in his native Ireland; Sotil is still well remembered in Peru. It being there were he has managed to go beyond his personal problems of the past to train youngsters, who undoubtedly look up to him as a symbol of what heights can be achieved by those who simply have talent and are willing to work hard.





I for my part, must say that I was glad to hear that this one time great player has found something in his life now that his playing days are over. As Sotil might have suffered a tragic end as did other greats of the game who also had problems with drinking such as Best and Garrincha. It being through teaching the youth of Peru that Sotil might see the impact he had on the game and more importantly; that his country might draw the kind of inspiration from its past that might provide it with new glories as well as world cup appearances.





One could say that to a certain extent Sotil is the Peruvian George Best or vice versa that Best is the Irish Sotil yet one could also say that Sotil is Peruís version of Americaís Jackie Robinson. It being Jackie Robinson who was the first black baseball player to make it to the major leagues just as Sotil was the first Indian to play professional football in Peru. Sotil like Robinson, being a trailblazer for other Peruvian Indians to follow as it was he who opened the door to football for other Indians in Peru like Robinson did for other blacks in America. This factor adding further importance to Sotilís career which clearly went beyond just sports and even helped reshape, not only football but Peruvian society in general in the way it perceived Indians; who for many years had been discriminated against.





In conclusion, I would say that though not as famous as some other players from South America; Sotil was definitely one of the great football players of the last century whose talents should not be forgotten. Sotil being about as good a dribbler as Maradona and where I would give the advantage to Maradona when it comes to pace and body strength; I would say Sotil has an advantage over the great Argentine when it comes to having a spontaneous flair for the game. I, in all this however do consider that it is regrettable that not many videos of Sotil are available on youtube yet I do hope that some fans of his will not be long in putting up more videos of him during his time in Barcelona as well as "Municipal" and "Alianza Lima".





As an after thought, I would like to add that for a man who was so generous when it came to passing the ball for others to score; he did not do so badly for himself by scoring 18 goals for Peru in 62 appearances. This statistic even being more incredible if one considers the fact that in several of these games; Sotil came on as a substitute and did not take penalties.





(1) "Cholo" in fact being a term of affection commonly used for an Indian in Peru though it is advisable to refrain from using it when addressing a Peruvian one is not well acquainted with.




















A comment made by a Peruvian fan on youtube regarding Hugo Sotil.





"No fui fan de Sotil pero reconozco que tuvo sus momentos brillantes entre 1969-73. Sotil no era de hacer goles pero si "fabricaba" jugadas de gol para otros. La razon de su endiosamiento en Peru se debe mas que nada:


1) a su extraccion etnica que era simbolica en aquel tiempo, donde habia mas cracks blancos y negros que indigenas y mas capitalinos que provincianos, y


2) a su predileccion por el regate.


Tenia tendencia a engordar y eso lo perjudico aparte de su vida disipada"



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