Luciana Aymar (c) Andy Smith

Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa, soccer coach of Leeds FC, has written a passionate anniversary letter to the hockey players of the Sydney 2000 team which heralded the birth of Las Leonas. Bielsa said that the Lionesses were “part of the country’s heritage”.

Two decades ago, Argentina won silver behind hosts Australia in the women’s Olympic final in Sydney. In defeat grew a powerful women’s team.

The letter surfaced after former player Inés Arrondo, Argentina’s current secretary of sports, shared Bielsa’s words on social media.

Arrondo said: “On the 20th anniversary of the birth of Las Leonas we received many special messages. This is a beautiful letter that Marcelo Bielsa wrote to us. Thank you dear Marcelo, for all the affection and for your valuable reflections.”

In his letter, Rosario-born Bielsa – whose daughter once had trials with the Argentina senior side – praised the silver-medal winning team which soon paved the way for the sport to become one of the most popular in Argentina.

He wrote: “Not all teams have their own name, not every team does. Like all idols, Las Leonas are apopular property that makes the Argentine people proud, but especially the group of women which gave rise to it 20 years ago.

“The Lionesses, a symbol of national sport, are part of the heritage that our country, like every country, needs.”

Sergio Vigil was the women’s coach at Sydney 2000. Vigil was also the Chile coach last November when he invited his friend Bielsa to watch his side attempt to beat GB at the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in London.

Bielsa gave the Chilean team a pre-match talk ahead of the Lee Valley games which GB won.

Since 2000, Argentina women have won two World Cups, a second Olympic silver at London 2012 and six Champions Trophy successes.

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