Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Colombia’s Jewish Football Coach A National Hero

Coach Jose Pekerman has been receiving much praise and adoration following the squad’s latest victory

By: J.S. Côté

Published: July 2nd, 2014 in Sports » World

Coach Jose Pekerman, a Jewish Argentinean, has been hailed as a national hero after leading Colombia’s national soccer club to its best appearance ever in the World Cup.

The cafeteros (coffee makers) beat Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday, reaching the quarter final stage for the very first time.

The national team had failed to even qualify for a World Cup since 1998, giving Colombians in Israel even more reason to celebrate this latest victory.

“We are very happy, our coach is Argentinean but Jewish,” said Olga Zuloaga, an Israeli resident of 14 years who was celebrating the win with a group of friends on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.

Coach Pekerman started playing soccer with a Maccabi club in Argentina’s Entre Rios Province. He also had previously coached the Argentina national club in the 2006 World Cup, losing against Germany in the quarterfinals. Pekerman, now 64, lives in Argentina, in the Jewish Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Crespo.

When the Colombian team qualified for this World Cup last year, Pekerman received a call of congratulations from the country’s president, Juan Manuel Santos. Now, following the win over Uruguay, the Twitter hashtag of #PekermanPresidente – or Pekerman for president – is a popular one in Colombia.

With host country Brazil being Colombia’s next World Cup opponent, who knows what heights Colombia’s praise for Pekerman will reach should he lead his team to another victory? King Pekerman? Emperor?

Colombia will square off against Brazil on Friday, July 4 at 4:00PM EST as the FIFA World Cup tournament heads into the quarterfinals. Germany will face France a few hours earlier, at noon.

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