Becoming a footballer, growing up, his relationship with his family. Erick Pulgar tells his story, from past to present, to his objectives with Fiorentina.
"I am 27 years old. I don’t feel old but of those 27 years, they were my best times. Playing football on the streets with all my friends, where cars were passing. As I live in Antofagasta, high up, if the ball went downwards, we would have to go really far to get it back.
These memories stay with me. I have a tattoo of my neighbourhood on my chest and of the street where I lived with a sentence which says to me:
‘You don’t remember the days, you remember the moments.’ This is a beautiful moment I remember."
"Football is a passion. I think it’s fair to say, from the day I was born, I’ve loved football. Also, just like I love football, so does my mother. She was the one who always had a ball for me or at least would invent something to make me believe it was an actual football.
For me, football is everything."
"I’m very attached to my family, my friends, the neighbourhood - and to be so far away sometimes makes me a little sad.
But when I’m about to go to Chile, in my case with the national side, to represent my country it gives me a sense of pride and for my family here, who are always with me.
I miss my family, my mother, my brothers, my friends, my home neighbourhood where, whenever I go back, I always go to visit my friends and my neighbours, my friends from childhood who are still there.
Playing for the national side, representing my country is a sense of pride. Sharing a dressing room with players who have represented us for a long time and around the world.
In my position, I play with Arturo Vidal, which is an incredible, incredible honour. Also playing alongside him is Charles Aranguiz, a tremendous player and leader.
Like I said, I’m grateful to be playing alongside another great player.
I’m very proud and I learn a lot from them as a footballer and as a person."
"There’s my neighbourhood, the names of my brothers, my mother, my father. I also have my team’s badge, who I played for in the neighbourhood. I have some religious ones.
My family and I are believers and I also have a small prayer of mine that says God protects my family and my friends,
who are those that are with me through the good and the bad."
"Friendship changes a little when you play football.
A few years back, almost all of my friends were my neighbours. Now, we have social media, WhatsApp and we have a group on there with my friends from the neighbourhood and we talk and we talk. We’re always in contact, through WhatsApp.
We’re always close.”
"It was always my dream because at school I wasn’t very good.
Thank God, I have the good luck that my mother allowed me to play football because we got to a point where school and football were at the same time. So I couldn’t go to school and play football.
I had to choose: play football or study. I told my mother: ‘I will become a professional. Let me leave studying so I can dedicate myself 100% to football.’ Thank God it was like that.
I did it with force and perseverance."
"A footballer’s life is a little complex.
I believe the biggest sacrifice and one that I have never complained about was training. From my house to the stadium, it was around 30-40 minutes walking. So from Monday to Sunday, every morning I’d walk this amount to go to training. I think this was also one of those beautiful memories.
I never complained about walking 40 minutes to achieve my dream.
Because I knew this was my path."
"When I scored a direct [corner kick goal] at Bologna, it was when I was working the hardest on my set pieces: free-kicks, corners, penalties.
There was Sinisa [Mihajlovic], who is a lover of the dead ball, so once a week, for 40 minutes to an hour, we’d practice free-kicks, penalties, corners.
I was able to exploit my strengths in working on dead ball situations."
"Being a midfielder is not an easy role. It’s where the play starts, you need to be very careful.
The main piece of advice I can give, which was given to me by my coach, is to constantly look around to see if you are alone, if your team-mate is free for that first-time ball. Be careful and 100% concentrated in every play.
You have to do everything well, because one mistake, you lose the ball and they’re already in your half and the opposition are attacking.
You’re all alone in midfield."
"I asked for No.78 because I have a group with my brothers, my mother on WhatsApp and I asked what number they wanted. Everyone said: ‘Use my birthday’.
As it was many of us, I chose the year my mother was born. For this, I was 78.
Now I use 15 because it’s a number I like and it’s my birthday.
I always wanted to use ‘Erick’. It’s a long story.
Pulgar is for my dad but I never really had much contact with him. My stepfather helped raise me, Pablo Araya, who for me is my father. He was also one of my managers when I was younger.
Simply, this is how I saw it that representing Pulgar didn’t make sense if he was never with me, never helped me.
So I wanted to just put my name so people know Erick the person."
"The only person who understands everything that has happened since I was a baby is my mother.
She fought alone, she saw how to give me and my brothers the best."
"It’s very important. If you don’t have ambition or goals, it’s difficult to advance or achieve the objective.
I think every player thinks about future goals. It’s like dreams.
I think the more goals a person has, the more willing they are fight to achieve their dreams.
If you have a dream, you fight to realise it."
"The way we’re playing, as you can see, with a very strong and united side. With the job coach Vincenzo Italiano is doing, he has the whole team very united.
So this allows you to work really well the whole week and there's competition in the team in every position with two or three players who could be starters and this reflects the work Italiano does.
He makes everyone feel a part of the team.
There is no undisputable starter. Every player fights for their place and trains really hard in the week to help the team.
The relationship with the fans is magnificent because they help us a lot. Now that we can play in the stadium with our fans you can see the change in attitude.
Since I've been out injured, I've seen from the stands with my friends that the fans never stop chanting.
I felt the joy off the pitch so I think for the players on it it was an extra push."
"It’s very important. But if a player doesn’t have trust in themselves then there’s no point.
Already having faith in yourself and then knowing you have the confidence of the manager, the directors and your team-mates who are with you in the dressing room,
you will feel a lot better."
"I believe in my own way.
I don’t go to church every day but I believe and when I was younger, there is a town in Chile called La Tirana, a town where a lot of religious people go and there is a celebration called The Birthday of the Virgin of Carmen, which is a week of celebration. Not a party with music, but a religious celebration with a lot of groups.
This helped unite me and my family in Chile."
"I listen to a lot of reggaeton. I'm a music lover. If I have to do something, there has to be music.
I really like Ñengo Flow, Daddy Yankee, Anuel. But nowadays, I listen to a lot of Chilean artists. Pablo Chill-E, Pailita, Marcianeke. They are Chilean artists releasing music today, who are doing really well in Chile.
I have music for all types of moments. I also listen to bachata, cumbia, a bit of salsa. Depending on how I’m feeling, I put on the appropriate music.
Myself and Nico [Gonzalez] or Lucas [Torreira] are thos who mainly choose in the dressing room, but we pretty much choose the same music, reggaeton.
Reggaeton just makes you happy, it cheers you up to go out and train."
"I’m not a huge fashion lover or things like that.
But if something were to characterise me, I’d say I really like black. I couldn’t tell you a mixture of colours or a style or brand.
When I’m all in black I feel really good."
"Mate isn’t drunk much in Chile, but I think nowadays the amount of people who have it has increased and in the dressing room, there’s Lucas, El Chino [Lucas Martínez Quarta] or Nico who always bring mate with them and who are always drinking it.
And food, well I don’t have anything to say about Italian cuisine because Italians eat really well.
But I do miss Chilean cuisine, my favourite dish is cazuela, mote and protos.
Mamma’s cooking is always the best."
"Some weekends I’ve been able to get to know the city a bit and I also like to be with my friends.
I really like video games. I play Call of Duty a lot. I’ve started to do live streams on Twitch. So I spend my free time with music, as I said, and video games.
I really like series. Recently I was watching The Snitch Cartel: Origins. I like this kind of thing, Mafia, war.
Narcos, Gomorrah, Peaky Blinders.
This is my kind of thing."
"I think that’s the problem: when the team wins, everyone loves you. When the team loses, you’re bad or the team is bad so every player has to think in every moment when it comes to posting a picture.
I generally don’t post much because, as I said, when you win you’re not the best and when you lose you’re not the worst.
The subject of social media is a little delicate."
"I have a really good relationship with people from Chile and I always say I am very grateful for their support, which from when I left Chile to now has been huge.
I’m a little shy. On social media, the comments are only for people I follow because there are a lot of rude people who write a lot of things which don’t make sense.
So to avoid this bad moment, I just have the people I want."
"In 20 years’ time I don’t know. I don’t think about it yet. I think a lot about my present, about the day-to-day work. Soon I’ll have time to think about the future. But for now, I just think about working hard to continue growing in football.
I think I'll be outside football when I retire. I think personality, the type of person I am, I don’t think I’m the right type of person to be a manager or a coach.
I would prefer to enjoy life with my family and with the people close to me."
Interview by Vieri Capretta