(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Emanuel Sheffer - the coach who led Israel to their only World Cup
finals in Mexico in 1970 - died on Friday aged 88, the Israel Football
The Israeli soccer world came out in force on Sunday to honor former national team coach Emmanuel Scheffer on his final journey.
Scheffer 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 local game.
"He knew 45 years ago what we only now understand," said Yitzhak Schum, who played for Israel in the 1970 World Cup.
Mordechai 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 approach.
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 Weisweiler.
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."