'Bielsa the Redeemer' - huge mural honours Leeds United manager
He has been called the saviour of football - but now Leeds United hero Marcelo Bielsa has been immortalised once and for all, in the style of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
Working on the huge mural in Wortley has been a dream for artists and life-long Leeds fans Nicolas Dixon and ‘Burley Banksy’ Andy McVeigh, who collaborated for the first time on the project.
The mural, in Leeds’ colours white, blue and yellow, shows Bielsa in the pose of the Redeemer statue, which famously towers over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
The pair were commissioned by Arron Lambert, owner of the Pet Lodge Superstore on Oldfield Lane, who wanted a piece of art for the wall on the side of his building.
He had been in discussion with Mr Dixon for some time about the project, but it was only after Leeds scored promotion that “everything came together”.
“Arron is also a huge football fan, and has been involved in the campaign to save the nearby TV Harrison ground, which is under threat of development,” Mr Dixon said.
“We had talked about a mural of Leeds United legends, but we’ve both been pretty busy and it had never quite got going.
“Obviously when the 16 years of pain came to an end thanks to our saviour Marcelo Beilsa, things changed. As soon as we knew we were going to be promoted, I went back to look at the wall again and thought ‘this is it’ - the chance to combine my two passions, art and Leeds United.”
Mr Lambert drafted in Mr McVeigh, who has become well known for his street art celebrating the club, and together they came up with the idea.
The piece took a week to paint, after they projected the image onto the wall in the middle of the night to get the outline, and then painted the backdrop in Mr Dixon’s abstract style. The words ‘marchando juntos dos mil veinte’ surround Bielsa - Marching On together 2020 in Spanish.
The pair hope to add small plaques representing each of the squad around the edges, and install LED lights that will shine in different colours when United are playing at home or away, and flash when they have a win.
“It will look like Bielsa is flying,” added Mr Dixon. “We’ve had such great support while we were working - bus drivers have stopped and given us the Leeds salute, and drivers have been beeping their horns.
“It was tricky to paint but I’m really happy with the end result.”
They were also supported by SAS Skylift’s Warren Hutchinson, who provided a cherry picker, and Bagnall’s in Wortley, who donated paint and brushes.
Mr McVeigh, who this week told the Yorkshire Evening Post how he planned to give up street art after his work was repeatedly vandalised, said he had never worked on anything of the same scale before.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out,” he said. “I’m hoping it will become a bit of a landmark for Leeds fans, and that they’ll come and take pictures here before matches. There is a lot of love for Bielsa.
“I don’t consider myself to be a ‘proper artist’ so to work with Nic was great - and to be part of something so big has been surreal.”
Mr McVeigh has worked with Leeds United before, after murals he did about the club were vandalised. He hopes that the mural could lead to another collaboration with Mr Dixon at Elland Road.
He is also hoping to produce prints of the mural for fans to buy.
“Since I was furloughed I have been selling prints of my other work on my website, and imagine there are a lot of Leeds fans who would love to get a copy of this - including myself,” he added.
It is the latest accolade for the promotion-winning manager, who joined the Whites in the summer of 2018 from Argentina.
Last month, a baby Humboldt penguin at Lotherton Wildlife World was named in his honour, while Marcelo Bielsa Way was unveiled at the city’s Trinity shopping centre.
This week United owner Andrea Radrizzini said Bielsa is the “perfect fit” for the club.