Marcelo Bielsa on Argentina, the World Cup & love

Written by: Moxcowhite • Daniel Chapman
Marcelo Bielsa at his first press conference as manager of Uruguay, alongside Ignacio Alonso, head of the Uruguay Football Association, who is looking at him admiringly, as well he might

I wasn’t sure if I really missed Marcelo Bielsa, or what I missed about him, and maybe I didn’t really understand the term ‘Widows of Bielsa’ until now. Because now, after he has been announced as the new manager of the Uruguay national team, I am devouring every word I can of his first press conference with an excited, empty heart. Excited because I love his words. Empty because he’s saying them so far from here.

One upside is that he wasn’t giving a press conference this week in a tracksuit provided by AFC Bournemouth or Everton Under-21s. We have not had to hear him trying to justify the work of Scott Parker or Frank Lampard Junior. Speaking in Spanish from a podium in Uruguay for an hour, he could still be Leeds United’s manager, speaking on general topics. It’s like a re-run of his best press conferences from Thorp Arch, when he was trying to make people understand how modern football is destroying itself, talking about how coaching players is about unlocking abilities they already have, without the distraction of translated answers about Lewis Bate’s form in the reserves or whatever.

I am still working through what Bielsa had to say this week, but this part felt significant enough to immediately share. Perhaps you were also wondering how Marcelo Bielsa felt when Argentina won the World Cup — Pablo Lamedica from TyC Sports in Argentina was, and asked him about it. And perhaps you will see how the answer relates to recent strife at Leeds United AFC, where fans have been playing all sorts of merry hell with players about them missing penalties and posting things on social media. Bielsa says that one of the most important factors that helped the Argentina team win the World Cup was that they felt, unusually, that the fans would still love them even if they lost.

This was Pablo’s question:

Good afternoon. Pablo Lamedica from TyC Sports from Argentina. As an Argentine and with respect, of course, to the entire Uruguayan people, I would like to ask you what you felt on December 18th when Argentina became champion in Qatar. What did you feel about Scaloni being a coach and what did you feel about Lionel Messi having lifted the World Cup? Thank you very much.

And here is Bielsa’s answer in full:

Well, first of all, obviously I am Argentine. I am proud to be Argentine. I like being Argentine. And second, I love the football of my country, as it cannot be otherwise.

And third, beyond the fact that I am a football fan, the other day I heard a phrase from [Tata] Martino that said, that when he goes to see Newell’s, what does he care if Newell’s plays well or plays badly? What he wants is to win. He does not analyse whether people are right or wrong or whether the players are right or wrong.

The fans go to the field and the first thing is that the team we want wins. So I wanted Argentina to become world champion in any way, and then we would analyse it later.

And of course, the reward that Messi obtained is a reward that is much more linked to his obstinacy, his patience, his endurance than to his resources, which are obviously extraordinary.

But there were two things that I loved about the game, about the final.

Before the game, I made a comparison and put each French player compared to each Argentine player in their place. And my conclusion was that there were nine French players better than nine Argentine players. And I said, damn, what a difficult game.

And Argentina not only deserved the triumph, but also dominated the game for eighty minutes out of ninety. For me, that was the best compliment of all, for the coach, for the coaching staff and for the players, who proved to be much better than the rivals when the previous analysis indicated the opposite. In Mexico they call it the natural gain. The natural gain is who wins before playing, according to the qualities of the players. So for me that is the greatest compliment that the Argentine team deserved.

I also noticed something that for me was definitive.

For the first time I noticed that the public was going to accompany the team even if they did not win. And that is not typical of Argentine success, but it is something that the team had won.

I always highlight that the social cost that defeat has in Argentina makes the players become much more powerful. No player wants to lose because going out on the street after a defeat in Argentina is more difficult than in most places where football is passion.

But this time the public was different. From the first moment, the message that the fans transmitted to their team was that they were going to accompany them, even if they did not win.

And that had a very, very powerful effect on the team, from my point of view.

So for me the meeting of three very important things happened:

Players willing to beat better rivals, legitimately expressing their conditions to the maximum.

The second, a player like Messi in a state of mental grace, because the state of grace with the feet always has it.

And the third, a public that supported his team through unconditional love, not conditioned love.

Unconditional love for any human being is very strengthening. ‘I love you, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose’.

If you know you are loved in advance, it is much easier to release everything you are capable of.

And this that I just told you, from my humble opinion, is an appreciation to the players, the public and the coaching staff, the doers of something that will be unforgettable for all Argentines. Among other things, because it was achieved between the three parties.


Pick your emails:
  • Support The Square Ball

    Get more from TSB+

    ⬢ Ad-free podcast
    ⬢ Extra episodes
    ⬢ The Match Ball Live video
    ⬢ Every digital magazine
    ⬢ Daily email and more
    ⬢ From £4.99 a month
    ⬢ Click here for one month free trial
Cookstown Cafu
Unlike That Ref
The Bottom Line
Stuart Salute
Modern Day Hero
Ilia Gruev sits on the grass at the end of Leeds United's 0-0 draw with Sunderland
Take us with you
Sucker Punch
Born of Frustration
Lost It
Lots of handshakes among Leeds United Women's players on a floodlit night when they beat FCUM earlier in the season
Nine goal night
The Square Ball