- Andrés Escobar’s first own goal of his professional career cost him his life in 1994
- The Colombian team captain was murdered in cold blood outside a club five days after his country lost 2-1 to USA in the group stage
- At the time, Colombia were heavy favourites to win the World Cup after an impressive run in qualifiers
In 1994, Colombia’s hopes for winning the World Cup were at an all time high.
Brazil legend Pele, who had long retired from the game at the time, went to the lengths of tipping the South American side to win the competition that year.
Not only did they finish top of their qualifying group, Colombia thrashed Argentina, a team which won the competition two World Cups ago, 5-0.
Amid all the optimism surrounding Colombia’s campaign, it ended in disaster for the team as they exited the competition in the group stages and one name was at the centre of all the blame - Andrés Escobar.
Escobar scored an own goal as Colombia succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to USA in their second group game, having lost 3-1 to Romania in their opener.
A report from The Guardian details the feeling and stakes for the players ahead of their game against USA, with retired striker Faustino Asprilla recalling how tense players were before the game.
With the game finely poised at 0-0 and Colombia desperately searching for an opener to kick start their campaign, things took a turn for the worse when Escobar made contact with a low, curling John Harkes cross into the penalty area.
It wrong-footed the goalkeeper and gave USA the lead, which many Colombians will say at the time was thoroughly undeserved.
According to The Sun, Colombia’s failure in the spectacle held in the United States led to serious back clash at home, with Escobar fast becoming an enemy of the people.
He was particularly in the bad books of a drug cartel, which at the time, was believed to have large amounts of money riding on the USA game.
Escobar was urged by friends to lay low after the tournament but against his better judgement, he opted against it, saying he “must show my face to the people”.
That proved costly for him and he paid with his life as only five days after Colombia’s exit from the World Cup, he was murdered while sitting in his car outside a Medellín nightclub car park.
Multiple reports indicate Escobar was shot six times, with the killers reportedly shouting “Goal!” for every bullet that was fired.
Barely a day later, Humberto Castro Muñoz, a bodyguard associated with the drug barons who lost money to the Colombia-US game, was arrested and he confessed soon after.
Colombia, the crime hub
From the 1960s, Colombia has been on the spot for violent crimes and drug cartels.
Things escalated and morphed into a conflict between the Colombian government, crime syndicates, and paramilitary groups.
The civilian population was always the most affected as many innocent individuals were often caught in the crossfire.
By 1995, Colombia had overtaken the Uk significantly in deaths by homicide.
Andrés Escobar’s legacy
An estimated 120,000 people attended Andrés Escobar’s funeral and the anniversary of the former Colombia captain’s death is marked each year in football matches.
Civil war and homicides might have reduced in Colombia, but the fight is far from finished.
In the 2018 World Cup, death threats were sent to midfielder Carlos Sanchez after he was sent off after just three minutes against Japan in his side’s opening game.
The late Escobar’s brother Santiago, now manager of Ecuadorian side Universidad Catolica was among the first to speak out in defense of Sanchez as he lamented on his people’s inability to learn from the past.
“As a brother who has gone through this, I know what must be going through their [Sanchez’s family’s] heads, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that," he said.
"Carlos must be feeling both sad for the mistake he made, and very afraid, and his family too.
"My brother never received any threats, they just shot him dead in the most cowardly way.”
Legit.ng earlier reported that the greatest strikers who have featured for Manchester United during the Premier League era have been ranked, with Ruud van Nistelrooy leading the pack according to ESPN.
Van Nistelrooy who arrived the Old Trafford in 2001 for a then-British record transfer fee of £19million has been named as Manchester United's best striker for the club.