As Colombia gets ready to play in their first quarterfinal ever, we look back at the tragic murder of defender Andres Escobar 20-years-ago today. Scoring an own goal — as he tried to deflect a dangerous pass — in the match against the United States, in the groups stage.
Football is the world’s pastime, anyone can see that while watching the passion and devotion fans show as they follow their national teams. In Colombia, it’s much of the same and at the 1994 World Cup — hosted by the United States — the whole nation was watching as Escobar’s attempt to prevent the ball from going into the net failed.
Subsequently, Colombia was eliminated from the World Cup and Escobar decided to go back home, instead of visiting relatives in Las Vegas. It proved to be a fateful decision.
For the Escobar family, the pain hasn’t subsided 20-years later and each time the team from Colombia takes the field we are bound to see a reminder of the talented defender. But for his loved ones, the 27-year-old was much more than that:
“He was our little brother, our pride and joy,” Maria Escobar told FIFA.com in Rio de Janeiro. On that tragic day, Maria received a call from Colombia’s midfielder Gabriel Barrabás Gomez confirming the horrible news: “Maria, something terrible has happened. Andres…Andres has been killed.”
While in Medellin, Colombia — known for its chaos at the time — Andres Escobar was gunned down, as he left a night club. Many presume that this was in retaliation for his own goal, which resulted in millions of dollars lost for drug dealers, who had bet on Colombia’s victory.
In its feature story, following the July 1 murder of Andres Escobar, TIME magazine reported that, allegedly, three men appeared in the parking lot of the nightclub called El Indio at around 3 a.m. and began shouting and insulting the defender because of the own goal. Two of the men took out shotguns and fired six times, killing Escobar, while allegedly shouting “Gol!”.
Humberto Castro Muñoz — a bodyguard for one of the feared drug cartels — confessed to killing Escobar, after he was arrested on July 2. Castro Muñoz was also a driver for drug kingpin Santiago Gallón, “who allegedly bet heavily on the Colombian team and was upset at having lost,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Following the murder, many of Escobar’s teammates quit the national team for fear for their lives. As Colombia prepares to face the mighty Brazil in their first quarterfinal ever, Andres Escobar’s spirit is very much alive and James Rodriguez and company have the task of trying to erase one of the darkest episodes in Colombian history.
[Image via Twitter]