I swear I remember it like it was yesterday.
My parents, brother, and I were at a a barbecue hosted by longtime family friends in Chino, California. My dad and his buddy Edwardo were in the backyard tending the grill, and I (13 years old at the time) was right there trying to be – you know – “one of the men”.
The topic? Newell’s Old Boys (a small team from Rosario, Argentina), and how they just won the Argentine League. Among the many details, Marcelo Bielsa (a Rosarino himself) dominated the discussion. This was a special time since everyone at the BBQ was from Rosario and were feeling kinda proud. Even my mom, a supporter of arch-rival Central, was quite festive.
It’s one of those memories from childhood, that is burned in your brain. I know the smells, the exact lighting in the backyard, and my precise location and positioning when the topic started up.
Anyways, my brother and I have been following Bielsa’s trajectory ever since. And every step of the way, we’ve always thought he was a tremendous badass! So much so that, a little over 10 years ago, we even bribed guards to sneak into closed-door training sessions. This man is our greatest coaching influence.
Bielsa is to coaches, what Messi is to players.
The following has been on my mind for many many years, and now my suspicions are further solidified:
I’ve always felt Ferguson, which Americans blindly (yes blindly) put on a pedestal, is a tactical primate by comparison. Go ahead and throw his trophies at me (as if I don’t know). This business of assessing quality has many layers.
There, I’ve said it. It’s off my chest and out in the world.
Ha! So just imagine what I think of your typical youth, college, MLS, and National Team coaches. Please, they’re amoebas.
Did You Know?
Now, before you conveniently declare me a nut-job, or start thinking my heritage and childhood engrained a certifiable bias, how could you know without having followed Bielsa’s teams?
For instance, did you watch his Argentina failure to advance out of the 2002 World Cup group phase? Can you appreciate what a freak occurance that was? That Argentina team was perhaps one of the most dominant and deadly National Teams I’ve ever seen. And most everyone witnessing the matches leading up to and through that World Cup agree. They were the heavyweight to take it all. When that didn’t materialize, the Argentine public, media, and federation – notorious for lynching coaches – wanted him to stay in charge. Why would that be?
Ten years later, after his little Athletic Bilbao thoroughly tore Manchester United a new one, Pep Guardiola made the statement:
And it’s not like he needed the last couple weeks to conclude that.
(Recall that Pep, before taking over Barcelona, went to Argentina to learn from Marcelo).
What’s the Point
But I’m bringing all this up now only because those two matches are what put Bielsa on the map with the general American soccer coach/blogger/fan/whatever. You know, the very community I rail against as having no clue about this game. It’s quite telling that it takes Manchester United getting torn up to get “these people’s” attention. Hopefully the smart ones will realize that maybe their depth is not what they thought it was, that maybe there’s a ton of things to learn.
This is why I wanted him so desperately for the US National Team. So that the American soccer community, which is frankly devoid of the global game, would have a constant exposure to a truly elite coach. And with that, finally have all their beliefs exposed as nonsense.
But oh well, I hope they at least felt this latest global double-bitch-slap on March 8 and March 15. And I hope they use it to start waking up!
Are you still asleep?