Reuters Soccer Blog
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Marcelo Bielsa’s feats – leading Chile’s national team to the third spot in the World Cup qualifiers and just one win from a ticket to South Africa 2010 – have turned him into one of Chile’s most beloved figures. Men say he should run for president; women rank the introverted coach a sex symbol.
His popularity is backed by numbers. A poll in El Mercurio newspaper ranks Bielsa the best trainer in Chile’s soccer history, above Nelson Acosta who took the team to the second round of France 1998 and Fernando Riera who led “La Roja” to the third spot in Chile 1962.
But passion for the Argentine transcends the soccer pitch and enters the realm of the altar.
In the most recent act of fervour, a group of fans is asking the Vatican to canonise him. The site asks fans to support the effort by lighting 100,000 virtual candles for “San Marcelino.”
Bielsa, who is pictured with a halo on an altar, wearing the red jumper of the Chilean squad, even has prayers in his honour. “Blessed San Marcelino, lead your serious glare towards our fans and fill our nation with your glory,” reads one of them. It adds: “The nation you’ve chosen to change history and bring only triumphs to La Roja.”