Yitzhak “Vicky” Peretz, who during the 1980s played on Israel’s national soccer team, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 68.
Magen David Adom paramedics found Peretz at his home on Monday without a pulse, after he apparently took his own life, according to Hebrew media reports. He was taken to Sheba Medical Center, where doctors attempted to revive him but were forced to pronounce his death at around 2 a.m.
During his career, Peretz played 40 times for the Israeli national team, scoring 14 goals.
“Vicky Peretz was one of the most special people in Israeli sports,” Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said in a statement. “Vicky was also known as someone who is always ready to help and be there for others.”
The Israel Football [soccer] Association said it was “sad and pained” by Peretz’s death.
“This is a very sad day and a reminder to all of us that sometimes there is more than meets the eye hidden under the surface,” said association chairman Oren Hasson. He described Peretz as “one of the greatest icons of our soccer [team], a talented player, a trainer, and a unique person.”
“Vicky was a role model for many generations of fans, players and lovers of the game,” Hasson said, recalling the “tremendous pride” he had taken in representing the country on the field.
The Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club, where Peretz played during some of his most successful years, said in a statement that the club “is pained at the premature death of the former legendary player Vicky Peretz.”
After establishing himself as a top player in the youth leagues, Pertez joined Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1973 and was a member of the team during its championship success in the 1976-77 season. At the time, he was also honored as the top goal scorer in the country’s second league division.
In 1980 he signed on to play with French team RC Strasbourg Alsace and over the next two years scored 27 goals in France’s premier league. During the 1982-83 season, he joined Stade Rennais, scoring another 17 goals with the team.
In 1983 he returned to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, then two years later switched to Shimshon Tel Aviv. Over the following 17 years he played for Hapoel Lod and Maccabi HaShikma Ramat Hen. He retired as a player in 1991 after which he coached the Israeli national youth team. In 2006, he became assistant manager at Maccabi Tel Aviv but left the following year.
More recently, Peretz fell upon hard times both financially and in his personal life, the Walla news website reported. A failed business left him in debt and he became estranged from some members of his family.
His funeral was scheduled to be held Tuesday at the Morasha cemetery in Ramat Hasharon.