Just over four years ago, on October 10, 2017, Colombia celebrated its sixth qualification for a World Cup, and the second in a row, after making the best World Cup in its history. In charge of both things, the direct quota and the arrival until the quarterfinals of Brazil 2014, was the same person in charge on the bench, the Argentine José Néstor Pékerman.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then: a World Cup not as brilliant as the one in 2014, but with an advance to the second phase, in which England took out Colombia in a tiebreaker from the penalty spot; two Copa América and 16 qualifying matches, with two coaches at different times, Carlos Queiroz and Reinaldo Rueda.
The paths of Pékerman and Colombia cross again this Tuesday, now as rivals. And if the Argentine was responsible for two classifications, he will now have the role of judge of Rueda’s aspiration and his squad, and could even become an executioner, now in command of Venezuela.
Colombia must win in Puerto Ordaz and hope that Peru does not win against Paraguay in Lima. And, the way things are going, Pékerman and his squad are not going to make things easy.
After six and a half years of a successful relationship, Colombia and Pékerman parted ways, and not on the best of terms. In a press conference, on September 4, 2018, the president of the Colombian Football Federation, Ramón Jesurún, announced the departure of the DT, for “personal reasons”, and added: “José Pékerman has expressed his decision to withdraw from the Colombian National Team, he considers a cycle that was highly successful to have been completed.”
the true story
However, that story has several chapters. EL TIEMPO rebuilt it with several directors from the time when Pékerman’s departure was decided, several of them still active in professional clubs and close to the Federation’s executive committee. All the versions coincide: Jesurún and Álvaro González Alzate, second vice-president of the Federation and maximum hierarch of the amateur branch, had already made the decision not to continue, in the middle of the World Cup in Russia.
The Argentine coach, who had not managed any team until he was hired by the Venezuelan Football Federation, kept silent for more than two years, until in February 2021 he granted an interview to TNT Sports: “There was a bit of everything. I have no proof that someone tried to get me out. There are times when there is a crisis and it seems that nobody wants to grab anything. But there are also other moments when things are going well, when you see that there is potential and other desires and other situations begin to appear. Competition is like that and, above all, everywhere there is always a desire to achieve something more”, he declared then.
It should be remembered that, when Pékerman arrived in Colombia, in January 2012, the president of the Football Federation was Luis Bedoya, who, in truth, was the only interlocutor of the DT in the executive committee. Bedoya unexpectedly resigned from the position in November 2015 and, shortly after, he turned himself in to the United States authorities, punctuated by the ‘Fifagate’ scandal, in which it was discovered that several South American soccer executives received bribes to favor various companies. to give them the television rights of the Conmebol competitions.
Jesurún finished the stage that corresponded to Bedoya and then, in August 2018, he was sworn in for a new term, with almost unanimous support, which he had brought since the March assemblies of that same year. But before that, he found a barrier with which Pékerman was in the crosshairs.
They took him out for Lezcano
“The truth is that Jesurún and González Alzate took Pékerman out, and they took him out for Pascual Lezcano”a manager told EL TIEMPO. Lezcano was Pékerman’s businessman and fulfilled the functions of a sports manager in the National Team. Today, with the arrival of Pékerman in Venezuela, he is the general manager of all the national teams in that country.
The decision that Pékerman did not continue, according to several management sources consulted by this newspaper, was made in the middle of the 2018 World Cup. “That was decided since that new executive committee was elected, basically, due to the influence of Lezcano. Jesurún and González could not stand that Pascual was the one who imposed the guidelines for logistics, concentration, travel, hotels and access to the dressing room and the approach to the players, ”explained a leader who spoke with EL TIEMPO.
Jesurún and González could not stand that Pascual was the one who imposed the guidelines for logistics, concentration, travel, hotels and access to the dressing room and the approach to the players
“Lezcano made that group very closed and that caused great annoyance to the directors, especially Jesurún and González, who, whatever it was, were the bosses. They did not understand how a subordinate decided the logistics, the concentrations, the trips and gave them orders. That kept them very upset ”, agreed another manager still in force, in a chat with this newspaper.
Defeat and ‘speakers’
The game that was lost against England in the tiebreaker due to penalty kicks, in the round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, was taken as a pretext by Jesurún and González to justify the departure of Pékerman to the fans and public opinion. . “The elimination from the World Cup was decisive: they found the excuse to justify Pékerman’s departure. So, they used their journalist friends, their ‘speakers’ in the media, as a sounding board to say that the way Colombia had played had been dishonorable, playing lousy soccer, and that Pascual Lezcano was enriching himself with calls to the Selection”, said one of the directors consulted.
However, the reaction of the public regarding the performance of the National Team in Russia and the popularity of Pékerman in surveys and polls made the directors doubt. “What they did was a little pantomime. Seeing that Pékerman was well loved, they managed to think of keeping him, but without Lezcano, who was his only real stone in his shoe, and that was a way of forcing the ‘old man’ (Pékerman) not to reach any agreement. Because, let it be clear, Pékerman wanted to continue”, said one of the sources.
In July of that 2018, the managers sent Pékerman and his group the legal requirement letter to announce the end of their contract. However, afterwards there were a couple of talks between the coach, Lezcano and the directors. In them, Pékerman and Lezcano looked for an approach, finally failed. “The managers attended to justify the decision they had already made months ago and to be able to say that they had the will,” said one of the managers when recalling that episode.
In addition, when it had not yet been decided whether to keep Pékerman or if a new coach would be appointed, the Federation announced friendly matches for September 7 and 11 of that year, against Argentina and Venezuela, both in the United States. And they appointed a DT in charge: Arturo Reyes, Jesurún’s record and, at that time, a sub-20 coach. Those announcements were very bad for Pékerman and his environment.
Finally, Reyes stayed as manager for the rest of the year and then joined the new coaching staff, headed by Carlos Queiroz. Pekerman was already history.
However, the paths of Pékerman, Jesurún, González, Lezcano and the Colombian National Team cross again on Tuesday, in Puerto Ordaz. Colombia urges its own and others’ results to aspire to the Qatar playoff. And Pékerman will be your judge. After qualifying the National Team for two World Cups, leading the team in its best World Cup campaign of all time in Brazil 2014, now it could be his executioner.
more sports news