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Emmanuel Scheffer, 'special leader' and 'innovator'

Sunday 30 December 2012 16.40 CET
Israel line up ahead of their meeting with Uruguay at the 1970 World Cup

The tributes have flowed after Emmanuel Scheffer, the man who led Israel to the 1970 FIFA World Cup, died on Friday aged 88.

Scheffer was born in what was then Germany in 1924, immigrating to Israel at the age of 26 and playing for Hapoel Haifa FC and Hapoel Kfar-Saba FC, where he later managed. Indeed, it is as a pioneering coach that he will be best remembered, his modern approach to the physical aspects of the game bringing reward in Mexico in 1968 and 1970.

First was the 1968 Olympic football tournament, where the newly-appointed boss guided Israel to the quarter-finals only to suffer a coin-toss defeat by Bulgaria. His achievement in earning a return, for the World Cup two years later, was greater still and in this he remains unique – no one else has led Israel to a major finals.

His team punched above their weight, drawing with Sweden and European champions Italy but a 2-0 opening day loss to Uruguay ultimately cost them dear. Israel's only scorer at the finals, Mordechai Spiegler, recalled: "He marched us all to the top. I don't believe anyone can repeat what he did, the way he did it. He was a special leader and brought professionalism to Israel."

Another of that squad, Itzahak Shum, paid tribute to Scheffer's vision. "He knew 45 years ago what we are only beginning to realise now," he said. "He was an innovator and insisted on three training sessions every day, demands I don't know if today's players would be able to withstand. It was an honour to play under him."

Scheffer left the post after the World Cup but returned for another two-year stint in 1978 and, echoing Spiegler, Israel Football Association president Avi Luzon says his achievements were merited. "It is not a coincidence that no one has yet matched Scheffer's success. He believed in hard work and that made him one of the big names in Israeli football."

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