An ode to Marcelo Bielsa, who left an indelible mark on Leeds United supporters
There is no shortage of anecdotes about Marcelo Bielsa, enough to fill a photo album. Some are presumed mythical, others hyperbolic. Not all end in romance. There’s the time he left Lazio just two days after agreeing to manage the Italian club, or when he abruptly left Marseille after losing the opener of his second season in charge. There’s also a story of Bielsa being so angry at a loss during his Chilean tenure, he walked into the locker room, refused to speak to anyone, moved to another room, and lay naked on a bed, contemplating the result as his players sat. unaware next door.
Again, some of these stories are true, others may be exaggerated to ensure people perceive The locomotive remains intact. He is what he is and what we want him to be.
Crazy, lost, out of touch…all of the above. It may be hard. Maybe that’s not enough. But no matter what you think of him, Marcelo Bielsa leaves behind a trail of emotion for fans that can’t be shaken – perhaps never.
For outsiders – those who have never been under the spell of the eccentric Argentine – it might seem erratic to believe anyone could be so affected by his departure. He is, after all, only a man. An erratic man. A stubborn man. Obsessed. Hard to decode, even harder to describe. But after all, he started from Leeds, so it’s time to move on.
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But with Bielsa, it’s never that easy because these stories, magnified or not, including his tactics and on-court training idiosyncrasies, only paint part of his character. Spygate, post-match press conferences that felt like a college lecture, language barrier issues, his bucket – all of that is just a corner of the picture.
Marcelo Bielsa’s most important characteristic, the one Leeds United fans mourn at the moment, is less about football (even after helping the club return to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years) and more about connection, the warm bond he made with the city and its people. It was this unity that made the story so special and as James Riach wrote for The Guardian this weekend, “it made fans wonder why they bothered to watch football in the first place”.
Marcelo Bielsa is less a manager than a football nomad, whose only job is to awaken the heart of the city. He doesn’t care about work, but rather the challenge of regenerating a sense of pride, responsibility and love for the society in which he lives.
“He’s a person who likes to focus on goals that aren’t easy to achieve,” said Ricardo Lunari – a former Newell’s Old Boys player and someone who considers him a friend and mentor – during Amazon’s “Take Us Home:” show. Leeds United Documentary”.
“Easy things bore him,” Lunari continued.
“He’s interested in tough challenges, challenges that have a lot to do with the heart, what he can put into it, and the people he works with.”
There’s an existential feeling with Marcelo Bielsa because before you worry about your football club, he urges you to worry about yourself first, and that’s what Leeds fans have been waiting for. They wanted their football to be united, brave, proud and hungry for something bigger than themselves.
“I have genuine love for this man. He has changed the way I look at life, with more patience, humility and a deeper concern for the little things,” Leeds fan Andrew Murray said in a message. “For the past three plus years, I’ve felt like a parent I never knew existed came into my life, nurtured me, brought me unimaginable joy, and reminded me what is important in football. The fans…despite the fact that his messages were wrapped in the blanket of football, they were and always will be applicable to life. For me and my appreciation of the man, football was secondary.
This is the Bielsa effect. From Newell’s Old Boys to Athletic Bilbao, via Chile and Marseille, those who have been influenced by his presence are Las Viudas de Bielsa (The Widows of Bielsa), which began in Chile. The manager doesn’t care about your stadium needs, the transfer budget or the house he will live in. He cares about the city and what it was, is and could be.
“If Bielsa doesn’t fall in love with a city, he won’t go,” Lunari adds in the doc. “Bielsa didn’t go to manage Leeds just for the football club, Bielsa went to manage Leeds for the city as a whole.”
This piece is therefore not about what went wrong on the pitch, how it can be changed and what Leeds will look like in the future. Many words can be put together to assemble these predictions.
It’s about a city, a club and a man from Rosario who entered Yorkshire, never fully mastering the language, yet leaving an indelible mark on people. It is an ode to humanity.
“[Bielsa] graciously offered me a few moments of his time an hour before an important game against Millwall to shake my hand, place his arm on my shoulder and greet me before taking a picture,” recalled Daniel Young, an American Leeds fan, who also messaged me with a kind farewell to his former manager.”[Bielsa’s] kindness has never been forgotten and that’s not even taking into account the impact he had on the team, the kindness he showed to the community, the hope he gave us during COVID-19, his selflessness in what I know must have been tough times staying with us and away from his family because he had a job to do, and yes, he definitely did.”
There are several posts all over the internet and beyond from Leeds fans and players. All point in the same direction, which is to thank Bielsa as a man. As someone who influenced them. The football – at least the results and the style – is secondary.
Marcelo Bielsa leaves Leeds United as a club legend, but not in the way you think. Yes, the promotion, the football, the energy at Elland Road, all of those accolades are obvious, but the brand The locomotive leaves behind – the real everlasting message – is that the most valuable thing you can do as a football fan is to respect yourself, love your family and your community and whatever you do in life – now or later – done with humility and unrelenting passion.
There is nothing crazy in that.