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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Bielsa's contract conundrum
Marcelo Bielsa
Bielsa prasied his team's "amateur spirit"
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Marcelo Bielsa told the English tabloid The News of the World that he was on the verge of resigning.

It would be interesting to know how the English tabloid secured the exclusive interview, since Bielsa only speaks on the record in press conferences.

There is indeed a problem with the Argentina coach, who is owed some $490,000 in back pay.

A resignation is always possible - he is not called 'El Loco' for nothing.

But it would not make a great deal of sense.

First because the current situation in Argentina is one of desperation.

Job prospects

People who have worked all their lives and recently lost their jobs are unable to get their hands on their savings.

The country once seen as South America's workers' paradise is descending into chaos.

Just a few months ago it was enshrined in the constitution that one peso was equal to one dollar.

Now the rate is almost three to one. It is a time when everything needs to be renegotiated, including the payment of the national team coach.

For Bielsa to jump ship when so many are suffering would do nothing for his credibility with the Argentine people.

Even in the cold terms of financial self-interest, resignation would be an odd move.

Far better for Bielsa's job prospects would be to be seen doing a good job with Argentina in the World Cup.

The doors of the richest European clubs would open wide - as they did, for example, for Cesar Luis Menotti, the first of Bielsa's predecessors to win the World Cup.

After stepping down from the national team he found himself at Barcelona.

Bielsa could divide today in order to multiply tomorrow.

Amateur ethos

There is also a sense in which Bielsa's resignation would be a monstrous hypocrisy.

His team qualified with four games to spare. With mission accomplished, the coach paid tribute to what he saw as one of the key factors in the success of the campaign - "the amateur spirit of the players".

He meant that in the search for success his squad had gone above and beyond the call of duty.

With almost all of them based in Europe the marathon qualification format was a gruelling experience.

Huge amounts of travelling were involved, with severe temperature changes and even the problem of altitude at the other end.

But the players stuck it through to the finish. Often they paid out of their own pocket to upgrade their ticket to first class, so they could arrive more refreshed.

And even when it was clear that the team were going to qualify, no one ducked the awkward games.

For example, everyone turned up for the trip to the extreme altitude of Bolivia. And there in La Paz, when they were 3-1 down with two minutes to go, they still found the energy to pull level.

That is the spirit in the Argentina camp that Bielsa has fostered.

It would be indicative of strange times indeed if the pilot chose this moment to bail out of the plane.


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BBC Sport's Tim Vickery
"Bielsa is a very eccentric figure"
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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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