The amazing story behind a life-sized Bielsa statue being donated to Leeds United
A businessman from Leeds is donating a life-sized Marcelo Bielsa statue to Leeds United, raising cash for charity MIND after experiencing personal tragedy.
Tony Clark, 44, has immortalised his hero as a 75kg brass statue, commissioned with his brother Craig, 47, through their Batley-based company Trade Furniture.
It was sculpted in Indonesia, close to Bali, where Tony was caught up in the horrific 2002 bombings which left 202 people dead and many more injured.
Tony suffered with trauma and struggled with his mental health following the attack which he says 'never leaves his mind'.
His own experiences have spurred him on to donate the incredible life-sized brass statue to Leeds United, launching a fundraiser for mental health charity MIND.
Tony, an Elland Road season-ticket holder from Colton, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I choose Bielsa not just because of what he’s doing for Leeds United, but also because of his beliefs and everything he stands for.
“Football is a blow-off, it’s something to look forward to at the weekend if you’re working long shifts, from lorry drivers to people working in hospitals.
“With Leeds, I’ve noticed more and more momentum and drive, especially with Bielsa.
"What he did with the team last season was impeccable.
“It’s something that has given me hope throughout the last thirteen years and I hope that this way everyone can admire the piece, understand the story behind it and know there is hope after disaster.”
Tony and Craig first commissioned the statue in November and a number of clay models were made to make sure Bielsa, famously perched on a stall, looked just right.
The brothers had intended to auction the statue to the highest bidder to cover production costs, donating any surplus money to charity.
But following the Covid-19 pandemic, they decided to donate the statue free of charge to Leeds United, while raising money for MIND.
MIND is a cause close to Tony's heart following his own mental health struggles after witnessing the Bali bombings.
The father-of-one said: “My life was ripped from underneath my feet and I was thrown into what seemed like hell, mentally and physically.
“What I witnessed was horrific and will stay with me for the rest of my life. I chose to fight by helping others and putting my life on the front line.
“Although this was 18 years ago it never leaves you, it never leaves your mind.”
Tony says his recovery was helped by opening up to his partner, Emma, who is currently expecting the couple's second child.
Determined to help others who may be struggling with their mental health during lockdown, Tony hopes the statue will raise awareness of the mental health support provided by MIND and other charities.
He added: “Through my own experiences I know what people are going through, how difficult it is in these uncertain times.
“It’s a big thing among men and women, but men often don’t want to talk about it, I think it’s a macho thing.
“I’ve found out recently that some of my closest friends have had trauma or are going through mental health issues - burying those feelings isn’t helpful.
“It’s good to talk, whether that’s to a friend, a neighbour or someone close to you.
“I struggled to talk to people close to me until I met my partner, she has enabled me to be able to talk about it and I feel so much better.”
You can donate to Tony's fundraiser by visiting the JustGiving page.
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