The Israeli soccer world came out in force on Sunday to honor former national
team coach Emmanuel Scheffer on his final journey.
Scheffer, who passed
away at the age of 88 on Friday, will be best remembered as the coach who guided
Israel to its one and only World Cup appearance in 1970.
Many former and
current coaches and players, as well as soccer fans, attended the funeral at the
Ramat Hasharon Cemetery and recalled the incalculable impact Scheffer had on the
“He knew 45 years ago what we only now understand,” said
Yitzhak Schum, who played for Israel in the 1970 World Cup.
Spiegler, the star of the legendary team, recollected how Scheffer had told the
blue-and-white squad in one of their first meetings with him that they would be
training three times and the players asked on what days, only for him to answer
at 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Each of this weekend’s Premier League
matches began with one minute of applause in memory of Scheffer, who earned a
reputation as a tough taskmaster who put a strong emphasis on physical fitness
while replacing old-style amateur practices with a far more professional
After surviving the Holocaust, Scheffer returned to his
homeland of Poland before moving to Israel in 1950.
Following a short
playing career, Scheffer received a coaching diploma at the German Sports
Academy in Cologne, befriending coaching-legend Hans
Scheffer’s first coaching job was at Hapoel Kfar Saba and
after a successful stint with the Israel youth team he was handed the reins of
the senior side in 1968.
He led Israel to the quarterfinals of the 1968
Olympic tournament, with the blue-and-white only being knocked out by Bulgaria by
drawing of lots after extra time ended in a 1-1 tie.
After qualifying for
the World Cup with a draw against Australia, Israel picked up two points from
three matches in Group 2 in Mexico, drawing with Sweden and Italy after losing
its opener against Uruguay.
Scheffer left the national team after the
World Cup, returning for a short stint between 1978 and 1980 before retiring
completely from coaching shortly afterwards.
“He is the greatest Israeli
coach of all time,” said Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon on
Sunday. “He led us to our greatest achievement and no coach has managed to
emulate him in the 40 years since. He believed in Israeli soccer and hard work.”