Newell's to rename ground after Bielsa

BUENOS AIRES - Marcelo Bielsa has acquired such a reputation as a coach that his hometown club Newell's Old Boys in Rosario plan to rename their stadium after him.

Bielsa, who has lead Chile to the World Cup finals for the first time in 12 years, is feted across the Andean border by politicians, business leaders and newspaper columnists.

The Newell's Old Boys board will put a motion to its members and if the vote is carried the renaming will take place on the club's 106th anniversary on Nov. 3, local media said on Tuesday.

"This is a gesture towards a person who did a lot for the club and today carries its name with pride around the world," Newell's Old Boys secretary Pablo Morosano was quoted as saying.

"This is why we're convinced there will be no opposition to our poll and the Colossus of the Park will be called Marcelo Bielsa," he added referring to the ground, situated in Rosario's Parque Independencia, by its popular though unofficial name.

Bielsa impressed the club when, in a recent news conference discussing Chile and Argentina and his links to both national teams, he said: "It's impossible for me to love another shirt more than that of Newell's".



Supporters back home regret the 54-year-old is no longer in charge of Argentina even though in 2002, as World Cup favourites in Asia, they failed to get past the group stage after losing 1-0 to England and being held 1-1 by Sweden.

Bielsa stayed on and steered Argentina to the Copa America final and their first Olympic soccer gold medal in Athens but quit in September 2004, citing exhaustion, in the middle of the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Three years later Bielsa, who won Argentine league titles with Newell's in 1991 and 1992 and Velez Sarsfield in 1998, took over Chile and has worked wonders with an underachieving team.

All this might never have happened if Bielsa's middle class parents had succeeded in their efforts to steer their youngest son away from football.

In a family of eminent lawyers, brother Rafael is a former Argentine foreign minister and sister Maria Eugenia an ex-Santa Fe provincial vice-governor.

If the renaming of Newell's 39,000 capacity ground goes ahead, one of the stands will be called Gerardo Martino after the club's former midfielder who played under Bielsa.

Coach Martino has just secured Paraguay's place at next year's World Cup in South Africa alongside fellow South American qualifiers Argentina, Brazil and Bielsa's Chile.