Colombia's own-goal star shot dead
Sunday 03 July 1994
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.
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...
£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...