Weeks of speculation regarding the future of coach José Pékerman as head of Colombia’s national football team could end Tuesday when the Argentine terminates his work contract with the National Football Federation. So, it’s an “adios” to Pékerman and a “gracias” for having brought Colombia back from World Cup extinction.
At the helm of Colombia’s Tricolors since 2012, Pékerman led the national team to two FIFA World Cup championships (Brazil 2014, Russia 2018), and, until his contract officially ends August 31, is the second longest-serving coach of a South American team.
The imminent departure of the 68-year-old Argentine began to become evident last week, when Ramón Jesurun, president of the Federation remarked at a news conference that contract renewal negotiations with Pékerman had stalled, and for the September friendly matches against Venezuela and Argentina, the organization had approached Under-20 coach Arturo Reyes to lead La Selección.
Considered the “most successful coach in Colombian history,” Pékerman rose to prominence on the international scene after leading his native Argentina to three Under-20 World Cup triumphs (1995, 1997 and 2001) before named coach of the Blue and Whites in 2004. Pekerman’s two-year tenure as head of the legendary Albiceleste ended with the team’s bitter defeat at the 2006 World Cup Germany. The quarter-final shoot-out against the host nation turned into a brawl and forced Pékerman to resign amid criticism that he left a teenage Lionel Messi sitting on the bench at his tournament debut.
Pékerman’s absence from international football ended in 2012, when he assumed the difficult task of restoring faith in Colombia’s national team, after they last participated in World Cup France 1998; and just four years after Andrés Escobar was assassinated by hitmen from the Medellín cartel in retaliation after the defender mistakenly scored an auto-goal during the 1994 World Cup match against the United States.
Media outlets in Argentina are reporting this week the likely return of Pékerman to his country, in order to assume the directorship of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), where revitalizing the Albiceleste after their disastrous showing in World Cup Russia is a top priority.