ALEJANDRO MUNEVAR / AIPS* in CUIABA: There are players that are destined to be special, and there are managers that are destined to coach special players. This is the story of Nestor Pekerman and James Rodriguez.

One was born in Villa Dominguez, Argentina, the other one in Cucuta, Colombia, Jose Nestor Pekerman was a football player until an injury took him off the field. After this he worked as a taxi driver, finally giving up on a professional football career and using his brother Tito’s Renault 12 to earn a living

In 1982 Pekerman left his job as a taxi driver after he was named as the person in charge of generating Argentina’s team structure and training of some of the most important players in the history of the nation like Esteban Cambiasso and Juan Roman Riquelme to name a few.

Pekerman started realized the dreams he imagined while driving his taxi through the city jungle of Buenos Aires. One of the virtues of Colombia’s national team coach is his intuition, his ability to generate and learn from experience, even that gained while taking taxi fares.


At that time, Pekerman thought about teams and football with a collective sense,  as a way of uniting the power of team sports, confidence, and teamwork to bring good to society.

Paradoxically, after he resigned from his position as Argentina national team coach in 2006, in 2012 he arrived to manage a national football team that needed someone like him to generate a change, not only in football but also in society.

James was one of those guys that a soon as you see him you say he is “el crack”, a hero. From the age of 10 he started to make history in Colombia in a youth football tournament.

Time passed and he had the opportunity to travel to Argentina to play with Banfield where he became champion, being the youngest foreigner in Argentinian football history to do so, after that he went to Porto in Portugal and now plays in Monaco in France.

James Rodriguez is one of those players in Colombia’s national team that needed to go out of the country to find an opportunity.

Colombia is one of those countries where young people don’t get the chances they should because, some people don’t beleave young people could do things right.

High praise

Rodriguez needed to go to another place to demonstrate that he was good, after which, slightly ironically, he got the chance to be a part of Colombia’s national team.

After this everybody in and out of the country was saying: “He is a crack”, the same happen to Falcao, Guarin, Ibarbo, Quintero, Balanta just to name a few.

After Leonel Alvarez was fired as national team coach in 2012, and Nestor Pekerman was named as the new manager, James Rodriguez was an important part of the team, but even if he was important, Pekerman needed to teach the team how to play as a team.

Pekerman arrived and start to change the mentality of the players – teaching them to play as a team and not only for themselves. Miraculously, the players understood the message, James understand the message and did his homework.

He was named as the number 10 of the team, the conductor of the orchestra. Pekerman knew that with James he would have a great player on the pitch, and obviously, after Falcao’s injury, Pekerman knew that James will be the leader he need.

Age factor

With the team’s in-form winning display, and the importance of football, the change was imminent. Just as Pekerman had thought, football changes society – and it does, at least in Colombia, where the nation is now learning to win, after spending 20 years learning to lose.

Pekerman was 28 years old when he had to quit football. He was older than most of his players in the national team of Colombia. He was older than James Rodriguez who is 23 years old, the player that was called to maintain the weight of the team after the confirmation of Falcao’s injury.  At least that was Pekerman’s plan, and for now, that is exactly what is happening. Colombia is in second round.

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information:

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