QUÉ TIEMPOS AQUELLOS

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En 1994, Julio Grondona tomó una de sus mejores decisiones en su extenso mandato al frente de la AFA: contrató a José Néstor Pekerman como técnico de las selecciones juveniles argentinas. A pesar del palmarés del entrerriano, tanto en Argentinos Juniors como en el chileno Colo Colo, muy pocos suponían que se estaba ante el nacimiento del mejor proyecto, deportivo y educativo que tuvo hasta el presente el fútbol juvenil argentino.

Mucho más que victorias

Con José y Hugo Tocalli como máximos responsables de los juveniles argentinos, llegaron varios títulos: los campeonatos mundiales sub-20 en Qatar 1995, Malasia 1997, Argentina 2001 y Canadá 2007 (este con Hugo Tocalli como técnico). Los campeonatos sudamericanos en 1997, 1999 y 2003, más el título logrado por el Sub-17 en 2003. A estas conquistas se deben agregar las conseguidas en los torneos Preolímpicos o en el Esperanzas de Toulon. Resumiendo, fue más de una década obteniendo campeonatos. La inercia de este fantástico trabajo siguió hasta el 2008, año en el que Argentina consiguió la medalla de Oro en Pekín.
Al hacer un racconto de una época tan ganadora, uno se tienta a rememorar tantas gestas. No obstante, más allá de todos los títulos conseguidos y de la gran cantidad de jugadores que después nutrieron a la Selección mayor (Juan Román Riquelme, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar, Andrés D’Alessandro, Gabriel Milito, Walter Samuel, Diego Placente, Juan PabloSorín, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero y Fernando Gago, entre otros), el legado y los contenidos futbolísticos de este proceso trascendieron largamente el impacto mediático de cualquier vuelta olímpica. No se destacó Pekerman y su grupo de trabajo por las victorias que siempre son valiosas, sino por el fútbol que practicaron sus equipos y por el estilo que supieron mostrar.

Historia de vida

La adversidad forjó a José Pekerman, quien siendo muy joven debió dejar el fútbol por una rotura de ligamentos, que hoy puede curarse, pero hace 40 años no. Un tío le prestó un Renault 12, que José pintó para luego salir a las calles como taxista, y así poder mantener a su familia. Por eso no extraña que nunca renuncie a sus principios y que a lo largo de su brillante ciclo, haya tomado decisiones controversiales, pero siempre demostrando quién era el que dirigía. Y sentado en ese taxi le surgió la posibilidad de volver al fútbol, pero integrando un cuerpo técnico.
José se incorporó, como espía y ayudante de Ricardo Trigili, a Estudiantes de Buenos Aires. Ricardo, viejo compañero suyo en Argentinos Juniors, le decía: “tenés que largar el taxi”, pero él le respondía que no podía dejar su medio de vida, porque el fútbol era «medio traicionero» y a veces se cobraba tarde. De Estudiantes pasaron a Chacarita Juniors y luego a Argentinos. Trigili debió irse a los pocos partidos y José, solidario, dijo que él también se iba. “Vos no te vas ¿Querés volver al taxi?”, le aconsejó Trigili. Y José, afortunadamente, le hizo caso. Su trabajo con los juveniles de Argentinos Juniors y también de Colo Colo en Chile, fueron su plataforma para llegar a los juveniles de la AFA en1994.
José Pékerman es un técnico que siempre privilegió el buen juego. Al frente de los juveniles se destacó por ser responsable, meticuloso y riguroso. Una anécdota contada por Tocalli lo pinta de cuerpo entero: cuando volvieron de ganar el Mundial de Malasia, no tuvo ni tiempo de festejar; se subió a otro avión y se puso a pensar en el sub-17 que tenía que jugar el Sudamericano de Perú. Pékerman trabajó junto a un cuerpo técnico que transformó el estilo de trabajo en las selecciones formativas. Exhibió un gran manejo de los grupos. No hubo un solo jugador juvenil que haya cuestionado o mostrado su inconformismo con Pékerman. A propósito de esto último, hace algunos años, cuando la FIFA distinguió a Messi con su primer Balón de Oro, «la Pulga» se lo dedicó a su familia y a alguien más: «A Pekerman, a quien siempre le voy a agradecer darme la oportunidad de debutar en un Mundial. Me dio muchos consejos que no los olvido». Messi juega para la Argentina gracias a un operativo relámpago entre Claudio Vivas, Hugo Tocalli y Pékerman, quien, enterado de un «enano» que hacía maravillas en las inferiores de Barcelona, fue a verlo en un partido contra el Alcorcón, en las afueras de Madrid, cuando José era el manager de Leganés. El entrenador quedó maravillado y de inmediato llamó a Tocalli para animarlo e insistirle con una urgente convocatoria. Años más tarde, el 17 de agosto de 2005, en Budapest, José sería el responsable del bautismo de Messi en la mayor.

El después

Cuesta abajo en la rodada. Así han sido los procesos en el seleccionado juvenil desde que José Pekerman -hoy técnico en la mayor de Colombia- y Hugo Tocalli dejaron el cargo de entrenadores por desavenencias con Julio Humberto Grondona. Nunca más hubo un proceso serio para continuar con el legado de José, y hasta se llegó a no clasificar a un Mundial juvenil. Con el fin de la era Pékerman/Tocalli, entre 1994-2007, se terminó el proceso de gestación, formación y ejecución de un trabajo que trajo frutos y títulos.
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About Author

56 años, escritor. El fútbol y el rugby, mis pasiones. San Lorenzo de Almagro un sentimiento. Escribir sobre fútbol y sus protagonistas, un oficio que intento aprender día a día.

77 comentarios

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