« Back

Marcelo Bielsa’s former translator, Fabrice Olszewski, gives an incredible interview

In an extraordinary interview given on Monday night to Canal + TV show J + 1, Marcelo Bielsa’s translator during the 2014/15 campaign, Fabrice Olszewski, spoke frankly about his relationship with “El Loco”, offering an inside track interpretation of the last 12 months which culminated in Bielsa’s departure after the first game of the new Ligue 1 season.

 

On when he first met Bielsa…

It was thanks to the Toulon Tournament. I did the Toulon Tournament in 2006, half with the Argentina team and the other half with the Mexico team. And in 2008, people from the tournament got in touch with me again, this time I was to enter into contact with the Chilean FA. It is then that they signed Marcelo Bielsa.

I knew a little bit about his story. When I saw him, I knew that I was going to be dealing with one of the best managers in the world. But he always treated me in a straightforward way, he never really considered me as someone who belonged in football, so we had quite a friendly relationship…

 

On his arrival at Marseille…

Everything happened through Diego Reyes. One day, Diego sent me an email to do a translation, then he sent me a second email to tell me that they were going to be needing a translator… I said to myself what is this crazy position. For me, Marseille is like Real Madrid, like Bayern, like Manchester, it is a big club.

 

On his first press conference, during which he was entirely drunk throughout…

I did not do press conferences. The second match, I went into the lounge with Baptiste Aloé, who was the nineteenth player that day. It was the first time that I came across a players lounge, a V.I.P. lounge. There, the waitress comes to me and asks me what I would like to drink. Baptiste Aloé, next to me, asks for a Coca-Cola. I looked at her and I asked her “is it possible for me to have a whisky-coca?” she tells me “yes of course no problem”. So I watch the match and each time that I emptied my glass, she would refill it.

We ended up drawing the match, it was a bit tense, I went down to the dressing room and there the press officer puts her hand on my shoulder and says to me “Fabrice you are doing the press conference”. Woah, the press conference, I am completely drunk, sh** I was scared. The first question, I translate it, well, and then in my first press conference, I look at the journalists and then… blank. Shit, is what I told myself, what is the answer?

If you go back through my first press conference, in my opinion you will see that what I said, it is not really what the coach said.

 

On stupid questions from journalists… 

I was disappointed by the press conferences because I found that they (the journalists) were looking more to create buzz rather than to really talk about football. Everyone said to me “Fabrice, are you sighing because it is difficult to translate?” No, I am sighing because when I listen to the question and then whilst I am translating it I realise that it is a sh** question, so I was sighing.

 

On Bielsa’s attack on Labrune (at the beginning of the 2014/15 season)…

Yes, I saw it coming because we could all see that the transfer window was not going as we wanted. I warned the president by telling him “you know president, right now the coach is not very happy and it is a bit like a game of poker, at one moment you will see he will bring out an ace”. The president said to me “don’t worry Fabrice, I am used to situations like that”. Everybody knew, in the technical staff, that he was going to blow.

It was necessary. It was from that moment onwards that he realised that the project was presented to him in a way that he wanted to interpret it, and he felt a bit hard done by, the coach. The president, he, made all the efforts to fix it, but it is like trying to mix water with oil, it does not work. During a meeting before things blew up, I understood what the coach was saying, and I also understood what the president was saying and at one point I said “but hang on a minute, it is not what he is trying to say” and I was told “shut up, you be quiet and you only translate”.

I think it was the coach who told me that, but anyway I could see that it was the same from the other side. The coach was a bit annoyed because he thought that the conversations with the players were not going quickly enough. But I said to him “this is normal coach, it is the president who holds the discussions, but he does not just have that to do. So a Sporting Director is missing in the hierarchy”. And he said to me “yes you are right Fabrice, you are right”. When we arrived at the hotel, he said to me “would you be interested in becoming the Sporting Director?” and then I burst out laughing, I couldn’t believe it.

 

On disagreements with Bielsa…

Then came this discussion where he wanted to get something across to Momar Bangoura who was one of the guys who understood the (training) exercises the best. I repeated what he was saying the first time, then Franck Passi repeated it. And at one point I said “but coach, this is pointless, you can see that it is not working”. What made him angry, was when I said that he was abusing his power. There immediately he went into a mood.

He said to me “come on then we are going to have a walk, and we will sort this out through a discussion”. We got to the height of it and then he said to me “well now we are going to sort this out by fighting each other, this is the only way to resolve this”.

I exploded with laughter and I left. He apologised afterwards, I also apologised, and we sorted it out very easily. But I noticed that it was still hard because he is a nice person the coach, he has good intentions. But aside from that he allows himself to be trapped inside his character a bit. There is a difference when you are with him in private and when you are with him at work. I also saw his faults. I told him “I compare you to Van Gogh, you are a football genius, but in terms of human relationships, it is a bit complicated”. And he found that comparison to be flattering.

 

On moments of joy for Bielsa…

Yes, often after victories where everything went as planned, he was happy. But aside from that, there were always problems. We did not have one week honestly where we could say “Here, we worked well, everything went well, there were no issues”.

 

On Bielsa’s inevitable departure…

I knew very well that he was not going to stay; it was not possible for him to stay. But did they want him to stay? I do not know. But we couldn’t continue like that. I thought that it would all come to a head earlier. At one moment, everyone thought that we were going to leave halfway through the season. When he got annoyed he would say “sh** I should have never signed for this club”. Sometimes he would say that.

For me, it was best that things turned out the way that they have. The coach was nice because he did it after the first match. He could have done it on the 31st August. I thought that he would leave on the 31st August because he would have seen the results with the players that he had, it was not what he wanted. And then, there are players that he absolutely wanted to keep who left: Morel, Fanni, Payet.

 

On the press conference before Bielsa resigned, during which he notably spoke highly of President Vincent Labrune and showed no intentions of leaving…

I think that he was still in doubt, because each time that he takes a decision, he likes to have all the cards in his hands. And often, he is missing one card, so he hesitates, he hesitates, he hesitates. And sometimes there is not a lot in it. There was one part of him that wrote that letter that evening and another part of him that wrote that press conference.

But both things were sincere, that is what is complicated with him.

 

On Bielsa and money…

Money makes the world go round, so yes he attached importance to it because he did not want to be had; he is always scared of being had.

 

On Bielsa the kid…

For him, one of his main motivations for working in football, it is that, he wants to bring the fans joy. In the last match, Djibril Cissé was involved, the coach, like a kid, he waits for Djibril Cissé to be close enough to him to go and congratulate him and to talk to him because he loves football, he is truly passionate about it.

 

On the world of football…

For me, I will no longer be working in the world of football. It is clear, I no longer take much pleasure from watching football, I have cut it all out. Professional football is not good, it is not good…

N.B. The French transcript was provided by our colleagues at DailyMercato.

Latest news