The Washington Post

This Chilean World Cup ad is the best you will see


Every four years, myriad companies and multinational corporations flood the global airwaves with advertisements related to the World Cup, the world's biggest single sporting event. Some of the commercials are great; some are sort of weird.

Ahead of this year's World Cup in Brazil, which starts in a matter of weeks, there's been no shortage of eye-catching ads. But the ad below, sponsored by Banco de Chile, is our favorite.

It returns to center stage Chile's famous miners, who in 2010, the year of the last World Cup, got trapped beneath the earth for 69 days. Their dramatic rescue was watched by millions around the world.

The ad revives that stirring tale of heroism and national solidarity. Mario Sepulveda, the most outspoken of the miners in the years since their subterranean escape, lauds the bravery of his fellow Chileans and urges on the national team. The miners pack soil from the Atacama desert to be transported to Chile's training camp in Brazil.

The Chilean side, which some consider dark horses to win the tournament, faces incredibly tough opposition in the first round. It's placed with defending champions Spain and perennial powerhouse the Netherlands--a group, rounded out by minnows Australia, known as the Group of Death. (There are others who think the real Group of Death is the one the U.S. landed with Germany, Ghana and Portugal.)

"We are not scared of the Group of Death!" bellows Sepulveda. "We don't care about death."

The ad reaches an emotional climax around there, channeling the patriotism and courage we all marveled at when Sepulveda and his colleagues emerged from the capsules sent to retrieve them, greeted by rapturous cheers of Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le! Then-Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stood by the shaft, lapping up the applause and acclaim.

But not long thereafter, Pinera's popularity plummeted. The miners didn't all fare that well, either. Some struggled with unemployment and depression. When Sepulveda learned last year that authorities would not be prosecuting the mine's former owners, he told reporters, "Today, I want to dig a deep hole and bury myself again. Only this time, I don’t want anybody to find me."

But if the World Cup offers a nation a pathway to glory, it also allows it to forget. Nothing can quite match the bubble of feel-good optimism that cocoons a country in the grips of World Cup fever. After watching this video, you'll likely hope that Sepulveda and his comrades' bravado is not in vain.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.



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