Jose Pekerman Enjoys Limelight as Colombia Coach

After Playing Career Ended, Jewish Argentine Drove Taxi

getty images

By Reuters

Published June 20, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman is a thin man who has endured the lean years that inevitably come with a life devoted to soccer.

When the Argentine’s playing years ended due to a knee injury in the late 1970s, he supported himself with odd jobs, like driving a taxi.

Now he has pulled Colombia’s national team out of a long fallow period at the World Cup, leading them to their first finals since 1998 and securing a place in the last 16 after two of their three Group C matches.

Even in the high times, he talks about the country’s pain during the long World Cup drought as if it were his own.

“After many years of frustration, we have given satisfaction to the public, who have great passion for football,” said Pekerman on Thursday after Colombia’s thrilling 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.

“It’s been very painful missing out on this event.”

Boasting one of the most fervent fan bases of the tournament, Colombia kicked off their fifth World Cup finals with a 3-0 win over Greece, their biggest victory at a World Cup and one of their most convincing performances.

The promising start in Brazil is a redemption of sorts for the 64-year-old man of Ukrainian Jewish descent and modest upbringing in north-eastern Argentina who developed his penchant for attacking football as a midfielder with Argentinos Juniors, the club in Buenos Aires that discovered Diego Maradona.

Although he has had his share of success, Pekerman’s career has also been marked by disappointment, such as a two-year stint as coach of the Argentina team that went to the 2006 World Cup and lost to hosts Germany in the quarter-finals.

CHECKERED CAMPAIGN

Pekerman made his name as coach of the Argentina Under-20 teams who won world titles in 1995, 1997 and 2001.

With his penchant for grooming young players, he played a pivotal but easily overlooked role in making sure the young Lionel Messi played for Argentina rather than Spain and gave him his World Cup debut in 2006.

However, a blot on his copybook was the decision not to send Messi on as a substitute in the Berlin quarter-final. He promptly resigned after Argentina were eliminated on penalties.

After a fairly subdued period with coaching jobs in the Mexican league, Pekerman received in 2012 an offer for the top job in Colombia, a country he knew well from playing half his career as a midfielder for Independiente Medellin.

The turnaround was swift as Pekerman placed faith in the talented squad’s attacking instincts and most notably in Radamel Falcao, the top scorer in the qualifiers who is not in Brazil due to injury.

Qualifying in second place in South America behind Argentina was enough for President Juan Manuel Santos to offer Pekerman Colombian citizenship whenever he wants it.

Although Pekerman could not contain his happiness with the six points after Thursday, he talked about what lay ahead with his characteristic calm and measured tone. Colombia meet a struggling Japan next Tuesday in Cuiaba.

“In the World Cup, every match is a battle,” he said. “We hope to keep growing. We have many young players in our squad and this will be really good for them to gain experience.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.