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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Pekerman's boys ready to mature
By Tim Vickery

Diego Maradona is not convinced that Argentina have made a wise choice of coach.

Josť Pekerman

He likes Josť Pekerman, appointed last week after the surprise resignation of Marcelo Bielsa.

But he thinks that Pekerman "is a coach for youth players. He's not yet a coach for adults."

So it may prove. But Pekerman is 55 years of age.

If he is not ready now then he never will be.

And anyway, Pekerman is no ordinary youth coach. A virtual unknown a decade ago when he was placed in charge of developing Argentina's young players, Pekerman has become perhaps the most significant figure in the country's football in the post-Maradona age.

First because of the titles he won. Pekerman took Argentina to victory in the World Youth Cups of 1995, 97 and 2001.

As important as the cups was the way they were won. The pragmatists in Argentine football see the game as a war in which the end justifies the means.

Pekerman is from the more romantic wing, to whom football is an artistic and cultural manifestation.

He is proud of his titles, but equally proud of the Fair Play Awards his team have picked up.

It is no co-incidence that Pekerman's approach comes across as similar to that of Marcelo Bielsa.

The two are firm friends. It was Pekerman who appointed Bielsa as Argentina coach back in 1998.

He had been offered the top job following that year's World Cup. But he chose to combine his youth work with the post of overall co-ordinator of all of Argentina's national teams, and Bielsa was his choice to take care of the senior side.

Carlos Tevez
Pekerman protege Tevez scored the goal which gave Olympic gold to Argentina
After the 2002 World Cup flop the job was offered to Pekerman once more.

This time he chose to walk away, and Bielsa was re-appointed. He now says that spending so long watching Bielsa in action has taught him how to step up to the senior level.

Youth coaches usually face a problem of credibility when they move up the ranks. This, emphatically, is not an obstacle Pekerman will face.

He has no need of winning the respect of the dressing room, because he already has it.

He groomed the vast majority of the current Argentina squad.

From 1995 Under-20 captain Juan Sorin through to latest sensation Carlos Tevez, with the likes of Aimar, Samuel, Riquelme, D'Alessandro and Saviola in the middle, all are indebted to Pekerman for the guidance he gave them and the values he instilled.

The quantity and quality of the players he developed is - so far - Pekerman's greatest achievement.

There is only one unknown factor. Can he cope with the extra pressure of senior international football?

In his previous area of speciality winning was not the only thing. Indeed, it was not even the most important thing.

"Our youth teams," he said back in 1995, "are only worthwhile if they serve as a starting point from which players can grow."

The aim of the operation was to feed players through to the senior side - where the buck stops, and winning becomes the overwhelming priority.

The style and success of Argentina's youth teams earned them a nickname - The Fabulous Peker-boys.

Now the country hopes that the new coach will be able to make the transition, and the sky blue and white stripes will be worn by Fabulous Peker-men.

Bielsa quits Argentina
15 Sep 04  |  Football

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