It would not surprise anyone if I say that Marcelo Bielsa is by far one of the most enigmatic figures in the world of the beautiful game. After all, why do players, coaches, fans and even journalists speak so highly of a coach whose record boils down to three Argentine League titles and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U-23 team?
The story of FC Metz’s season can only really be discussed as pre-Cheick Diabaté and post-Cheick Diabaté. This was a club mired in problems for the first half of the season, the fans sending an opposing goalkeeper to hospital with a flare and the club apparently agreeing to accept a sponsorship from the tourist board of Chad, a country in the midst of an economic crisis.
It changed the season I was working in the Liverpool club store, and the reaction was one of shock, to say the least. As part of the publicity push I was asked to wander around the city centre wearing the new shirt and advertising pre-sales. I was consistently accosted by fans, aghast at the new change, furious at the interloper Standard Chartered.
It was a throwaway line from an article on the unparalleled Run of Play blog that I can remember neither the author nor subject of. The paraphrase would go along the lines of “inside the stadiums we are all from Ancient Greece.” The insinuation that nationality is set aside for municipality inside the crucible of sporting competition is one that we’ve all experienced, even if the internet has – digitally, at least – extended the boundaries of some territories.
It was a season that promised to much for L’OM. A new manager with a temperament to match the city’s, a young, hungry and talented squad with a point to prove, and as always a fan-base that never shirks their duties in terms of producing an atmosphere. Everything started brilliantly. Somewhere along the line, though, the milk turned sour. To tell us more, here’s French football expert, Mohamed Mohamed. Follow him on Twitter at @MoeSquare.