Colombia's own-goal star shot dead

ANDRES ESCOBAR, the Colombian defender whose own goal against the United States helped eliminate his nation from the World Cup, was shot dead early yesterday in his home town, the cocaine cartel city of Medellin.

Escobar, 27, thought to be no relation to Pablo Escobar, the cartel boss killed by troops last December, was shot 12 times by three men who fled in off-road vehicles of the type favoured by drugs and gambling mafiosi. 'Thanks for the own goal,' said one, according to witnesses.

The killing heightened speculation that gangsters from either the United States or Colombia had tried to 'fix' the US-Colombia match, which the US team won 2-1 in a major upset. The Colombian coach, Francisco Maturana, and several players were said to have received death threats before the game. Midfielder Gabriel Gomez refused to play.

There was talk of big money, both American and Colombian, riding on a US win at long odds. Some said US mafiosi with a financial interest in the host side's success may have bribed or threatened the Colombian team. But Medellin police said a lot of Colombian money, including cocaine funds, was riding on a Colombian win.

Medellin police said the men had argued with Escobar, who played for the local First Division side Nacional Medellin, over the fateful own goal as he left a restaurant with a woman friend at 3.30am yesterday.

In the match against the US in Pasadena on 23 June, Escobar stretched to cut out a cross from the left but instead stabbed the ball past his own goalkeeper for the opening goal. In a normal game, it would have looked like bad luck. In the context of Colombia, where betting on football is like horse-race betting in Britain, there was just a suggestion that he should have been able to steer the ball wide for a corner. For the rest of the game the Colombians continued to play below form.

Carlos 'the Kid' Valderrama, their peroxide- dreadlocked midfield star, could not hit a straight pass.

As for the normally-dazzling leftwinger, Faustino Asprilla, 'he didn't even try' in the words of the man who marked him, US right-back Fernando Clavijo.

The US team, who were rank outsiders, went on to qualify for the last 16 of the tournament while Colombia, who had been tipped by the great Brazilian star Pele to win the tournament, had to pack their bags in disgrace. Already out of the tournament, they showed their true form in beating Switzerland 2-0 in their final group match.

Colombia had joined the ranks of the favourites to win the World Cup after dominating their South American qualifying group with electrifying performances. The high point was reached with a 5-0 humiliation of Argentina in Buenos Aires. Dozens were killed in the boisterous celebrations that followed in Colombia.

Escobar is not the first football victim of Colombian violence. Another leading player and at least one top referee have been shot dead in Medellin by cocaine-financed gambling mafias who bet millions of dollars on matches.

After the US match, the disappointing star Asprilla told reporters: 'It's not the end of the world.' It was for Escobar.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?