Vicky Peretz, one of Israel’s all time soccer greats tragically passed away this week leaving the country’s sports world in shock. The 68-year old was a living legend who was not only a fabulous soccer player who performed at the highest of levels in Israel as well as abroad and for the national team, he was also a good soul that was always looking to help those around him especially the youth as well as new immigrants to the country.
Born in Kfar Saba in 1953, Peretz began his career in the Maccabi Ramat Amidar youth department and first team and also participated in the 1972 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Youth Tournament. Under the direction of coach David Schweitzer, the blue-and-white won the competition thanks to 12 goals by the rising star who had been toiling domestically in the second division. This performance helped jump start the legendary striker’s relationship with Maccabi Tel Aviv at the tender age of 20.
The striker had to wait until the 1976/77 season for his first title with Maccabi which ended up being two in one as the club captured both the league championship and the State Cup. The contribution of the lethal forward was significant in both competitions as he scored 17 goals in league play and another 5 in Cup matches, including an unforgettable foursome in the semi-final against Maccabi Netanya. Those seventeen league goals ended a picture perfect season for Peretz as he was also the league’s leading goal scorer.
A year earlier in 1976, Peretz had already shown signs of his goal scoring potential as a member of the Israel national team which participated at the Montreal Olympic. He scored in the 1-1 draw against France and in a 4-1 loss to a great Brazilian side but the results failed to get his side past the group stage. In all, Peretz scored 14 goals in 40 appearances for the national team, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 friendly victory over Greece.
Back at home with Maccabi during the 1978/79 campaign, Peretz continued to terrorize opposing goalkeepers and helped the club to his second league title with 17 goals across all competitions.
The intimidating striker caught the attention of clubs abroad and in 1980 he signed for French side RC Strasbourg, where he spent two seasons. He then moved on to Stade Rennais FC before returning to Maccabi in 1983/84 for two more seasons. He finished his career at Shimshon Tel Aviv but not before accumulating an impressive 177 goals in almost 450 appearances.
Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Tropper spoke about Peretz’s contribution to the country, “Vicky Peretz was one of the most special people in Israeli sports. He was a talented player who also represented the Israel National Team. Vicky was known as someone who was always willing to lend a hand and help others.”
As for helping others, Peretz was always involved with the nation’s youth and could be found speaking at events around the country. Whether it was for a local Kibbutz soccer league to Nefesh B’ Nefesh youth groups, Vicky was always there speaking from his heart about the nation and people that he loved.
Peretz also worked at the Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club Academy over the past few years influencing many of the club’s rising stars as well. Maccabi’s CEO, Sharon Tammam, said: “The Maccabi Tel Aviv family, the owner Mitch Goldhar, the club’s management, the players, Youth Academy coaches and staff employees are deeply saddened following the sudden tragic death of the former player, Vicky Peretz We were all stunned to learn of the sudden death of someone who was one of the Club’s icons. One of the greatest players Maccabi Tel Aviv had known with a glorious career both in Israel and abroad. We would all like to extend our sympathies and condolences to Omer and the rest of the family at this extremely difficult time.”
The Israel Football Association Chairman Oren Hasson also spoke about Peretz’s immeasurable contribution. “Vicky was one of the greatest symbols of our soccer. He was a gifted player and coach as well as a role model for many generations of fans, players and lovers of the game. Vicky was always ready to help in any of the Association’s projects and wore the country’s colors as a player and coach with pride. His smile will be missed by all.”
There is no question that the entire nation will miss Vicky Peretz and his contributions to the game both on and off of the field of play and those that knew him well will always remember his eagerness to help and aid anyone in their time of need. The impressions that Peretz has left on this generation’s youth was significant in that it will be part of them for the rest of their lives.