Bielsa to remain as Chile boss

SANTIAGO - Marcelo Bielsa, who led Chile to their first World Cup finals in 12 years, has reversed his decision to quit as national team coach and is staying on in the job, Chilean FA (ANFP) President Sergio Jadue said on Wednesday.

Jadue said Bielsa, who had threatened to quit in November, had not presented his resignation by the January 31 deadline which the Argentine had set himself to give the ANFP his decision.

"Today I met with the national team coach Marcelo Bielsa in a meeting that lasted no more than 15 minutes and in which I reiterated our intention that he remain in charge of the team," Jadue told reporters.

"He told me he would reply in writing. Unfortunately he hasn't done this yet, but I interpret his silence in an optimistic manner. Marcelo Bielsa stays.

"He's aware of my interpretation and what I was going to communicate to the news media," Jadue said.

Bielsa had said the day before the Nov. 4 election for a new ANFP president that he could not work under opposition candidate Jorge Segovia.

Spanish-born Segovia beat incumbent Harold Mayne-Nicholls, a FIFA official who had brought in Bielsa as coach in 2007, and the Argentine looked set to leave despite signing a new contract until 2015 inn August after the World Cup in South Africa.

However, the result of that election was declared null and void days later because of a clash between Segovia's business affairs and his position as president of first-division side Union Espanola.

Jadue, a 31-year-old lawyer in the same opposition grouping as Segovia, won a second election earlier this month and said he was committed to persuading Bielsa to stay on.

COPA AMERICA

He said he was not happy with the way the issue was resolved but glad the team could now concentrate on the Copa America in Argentina in July.

"Next week, since we're continuing our work, we'll prepare for the friendly match in March with Portugal," Jadue said.

"We have a coach, a match and the Copa America... so we're very optimistic because we consider him an excellent trainer."

The 55-year-old Bielsa is extremely popular in Chile. He steered the country to their first World Cup finals since 1998 in South Africa last year where they reached the second round and after which he signed a contract extension to 2015.

He cemented his popularity with a victory over his home country Argentina in a World Cup qualifier in 2008. It was Chile's first win over their powerful neighbours in a competitive match and sparked the resignation of rival coach Alfio Basile with Diego Maradona taking up the reins.

Bielsa, who coached Argentina from 1999 to 2004, does not give individual interviews and is noted for giving lengthy news conferences riddled with long-winded turns of phrase that he admitted on one memorable occasion even he did not fully understand.

When he called a news conference the day before the November 4 ANFP election to say why he could not work under Segovia, he spent more than two hours giving his explanation.

However, he won over Chileans from all walks of life, notably business people, intellectuals and politicians including former president Michelle Bachelet, with his work ethic and scientific methods backed by good results on the pitch.

Shows of support for Bielsa became regular occurrences in Chile after his decision to quit and national team players tried several times to get him to change his mind.


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