Jewish Argentine coach guides Colombia national soccer team to World Cup


Jose Nestor Pekerman coach of Colombia gesturing during a match between Colombia and Ecuador in a FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers match at Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, March 29, 2016. (Gal Schweizer/LatinContent/Getty Images)

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Led by its Jewish Argentine coach, Jose Pekerman, Colombia’s national soccer team will play in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Colombia qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia with a 1-1 draw against Peru last week in the final round of matches in the CONMEBOL South American group.

The Jewish coach was born in Villa Dominguez in the Argentine countryside, one of the main centers of Jewish immigration to Argentina. His grandparents came from Ukraine.

As an adult, Pekerman lived in the Buenos Aires Jewish neighborhood of Villa Crespo.

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Pekerman. a former midfielder with the Argentine national team, took over as Colombia’s coach in January 2012 and led Colombia to return to the FIFA World Cup in 2014, following a 16-year absence from the world championships of soccer’s governing body. In June 2016 he led Colombia to a third place in the prestigious Copa America, held in the United States.

In more than five years as a coach of “the cafeteros,” or coffee makers, team he has skippered 70 games, with more wins than ties and losses: 38, 17 and 15 respectively.

None of the star players set to compete in the next global cup is Jewish. Pekerman is the only Jewish member of a team participating in the FIFA world cup for the second year in a row, albeit from the bench.

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