Chile's Gonzalez returns to his roots

NELSPRUIT, South Africa - For Chilean forward Mark Gonzalez, the long trip to South Africa for the World Cup is a journey back to his childhood.

Gonzalez was born in the South African city of Durban, where his father, also a Chilean international, played out the last days of his career.

The family returned to Chile in 1994 when Mark was 10 but Gonzalez still has fond memories of his African upbringing.

"I'm very happy to be back in South Africa," he told reporters at Chile's training camp near the city of Nelspruit on Tuesday.

"It's a dream to come back, especially to play in a World Cup. I have a lot of memories from when I was a kid, especially holiday places like Sun City and safaris.

"At this time we're just thinking about the World Cup, but I'm happy to be back and especially to see some of my family that still live here."

Gonzalez is competing with Jean Beausejour for a place on the left hand side of Chile's three-pronged attack for their opening Group H match against Honduras on June 16.

He comes to South Africa after a successful first season with CSKA Moscow. Before that, he played in Spain with Real Betis and for a season at Liverpool, where he failed to establish himself in the first team.

His history with the Chilean team has been chequered. Under previous coach Nelson Acosta he was sent home for indiscipline during a tour of Europe, but he has cemented his place in Marcelo Bielsa's squad and is likely to play at least some part in the 2010 World Cup.

"For this group of players it's our first World Cup and we have to take advantage of it because it could be our first and last," he said.

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