It was the 1994 World Cup. Atlético Nacional player Andrés Escobar accidentally scored a goal against his own team. The next day, he was found dead.
The documentary The Two Escobars explores the criminal interest in Colombian football and how it led to Andrés Escobar's death. Did Andrés crumble under the pressure? or was it a deliberate act?
In the opening minutes of this compelling documentary, an announcer is heard to say that Andrés Escobar is 'no relation' to the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. But, very quickly, it is apparent that the fate of Andrés was sealed the moment that Pablo took an interest in supporting the local football scene.
Pablo's interest in football launched what was referred to as 'Narco-soccer'. Prior to his interest, despite a passion for football, Colombia didn't have the money to compete at a global level. But as Pablo and other drug lords began bringing money into the country, football became a tug of war among the drug lords. Running football teams became both a source of pride, as well as a way to clean some money for the competing drug lords - El Mexicano with his Millonarios, Pablo Escobar with Medellín and Atlético Nacional, and Miguel Rodriguez with América de Cali.
US DEA's Tom Cash agent explains in the documentary that enthusiasm for soccer blinded many to the criminal element fueling the sport. "In Colombia" Cash says, "Soccer was religion. It was sacred ground. The Drug Enforcement Administration tracked traffickers from all around the world to soccer championships, but we were the only ones who connected the dots.... It was speak no evil, see no evil."
It wasn't as though the players could plead ignorance - the players knew who the owners were. They'd go to their homes for parties.
Pablo Escobar died the year before the infamous World Cup game. When he was was killed, Medellín was left in chaos with violence on the streets as people rushed to fill the power vacuum. Andrés and his fiance were almost killed in an explosion at a plaza.
It was the hostile environment that Pablo sparked that eventually led to Andrés death.
After Colombia lost the first game in the 1994 World Cup, there was considerable pressure placed upon the team - they needed to beat the USA in order to save face. Lots of people had lost money on the first game and immediately death threats were made to players. The team returned back to their hotel to find that someone had programmed the hotel TV's to display the death threats. Police were called to protect families amid the chaos and riots at home that were sparked by the loss.
"It is unthinkable to them to lose to the United States"
As the documentary begins, we are shown Andrés mistake and left with the question as to why it happened. The same footage is shown again toward the end as we watch on with new eyes. Football encourages an extreme intensity of passion, but as The Two Escobars demonstrates, when that passion is amplified through the filter of criminal intent, it can end with disastrous consequences.
Stream The Two Escobars now at SBS On Demand:
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