Marcelo Gallardo changed the lives of all River fans and in this letter I wanted to give him my heart.
My name is Eitan Benzaquen and I am 26 years old. You took over when I was just 18 and came from a very complicated high school in terms of football. We had suffered relegation, the cupbearer memories were all negative with elimination to Boca included and I had practically not seen him champion.
I thought I touched the sky with that title that we won with Ramón Díaz and it was one of the greatest reliefs of my life. His departure was a low blow and I really believed that a setback was coming after what was achieved.
When you took over, you quickly managed to win us over with your words, but above all with what the players managed to convey. I remember that first year of a team that flew, that pressed high and filled our eyes with football.
It was that same year when we managed to see the two facets of what you could give us and there you began to show that you were a coach with all the letters. I swear I was convinced that our club was never going to be able to be a cupbearer and you changed it forever.
Although our greatest pride is to play soccer beautifully, that South American semifinal was a vindication of our history. River can play, but if you have to score, you also have to do it and we played a semi-final like we never did before. Then came the total excitement at the Monumental and the return to an international final. The last one had been against Cienciano in 2003 and like so many others, it ended in sadness!
The final with Atlético Nacional seemed like the best. We eliminated Boca in the semifinals and managed to win the first title after 17 years. It was the first time I saw our club win an international tournament and it was one of the happiest moments.
What came next is somewhat difficult to explain. The Libertadores arrived, the first that we participated in six years and we also managed to win it. How to forget the classification against San José and the cries of Tigres against Juan Aurich.
I knew that if we qualified we were going to end up celebrating and that’s how it was. After the pepper spray, Cruzeiro arrived and you also taught us to believe again against the Brazilians. You reversed our image in Brazil and gave it back the respect we had lost. That 3-0 was also a great break for what was to come.
The final with Tigres, without your presence on the bench, was unforgettable. The rain mixed with the tears and a whole generation that had suffered a lot for many years saw its first Libertadores.
Then came Japan and to be able to see the invasion of fans was really moving. On the field of play we failed to measure up, but you brought us back to a place that we really thought was impossible years ago.
In 2016 the first frustration came and you taught us that shapes also matter. Independiente del Valle eliminated us, but the whole stadium fired the team standing up, since they had done everything possible to win it. I confess that I thought it could be the end of the cycle, that everything had already been too incredible and that we had seen the limit of what you could give us. I made a mistake.
In 2017 we got excited after the comeback against Wilstermnan and then we hit Lanús. That defeat was very hard for all of us, because it reminded us of an old River. More than one thought that the cycle was over, but you were ready to take the big hit.
2018 has arrived, the true year of the Chicken. Final won against Boca in Mendoza, in what was for many the most important game of the year. They were wrong too. We lived through the most epic Libertadores in history, eliminating Racing, Independiente, Gremio in an epic night and we crowned it at the Santiago Bernabéu against Boca. The most important final in history was left in your hands and that will be as eternal as your legend.
Many would have thought it was the end. You could leave at the peak, but you went for more. 2019 gave us a team that, far from giving itself away, was one of those that showed us the best soccer. We eliminated Boca again in the semifinals and although many at the time did not give it much value, we must not forget that on the opposite side they had enjoyed elimination for years in that instance.
The final deserved to be ours, but football also gives those blows. We played the perfect match against the powerful Flamengo and in less than five minutes the illusion collapsed. You learn from defeats, but you landed on your feet again.
The pandemic arrived, which we also went through with you and you were even our great representative when you fought to stop football (when the context warranted it) and even the president asked for your help when he had to return.
There was time for the long-awaited title in 2021 of the local championship and despite the fact that for many it was time to leave, you gave us another year. It may be that things did not turn out as you dreamed in 2022, but it is anecdotal after everything we have experienced.
Doll: you gave us back our football identity, you made us cupbearers, you changed history with Boca forever, you made us believe and you gave us River fans the happiest years of our lives. Personally, I had a hard time finding a personal idol and today I have no doubt that you are and will be you until eternity.
River is your home and we are waiting for you here.
A fan like you.