July 2, 2008

Andreas Escobar Shot Dead



Today's anniversary is a tragic reminder that football is only a game.

It was on this day back in 1994, during the World Cup in the USA, that the Colombian international defender Andreas Escobar was killed outside a nightclub in the city of Medellin. Fourteen years on from the killing, it's still not clear whether his murder was ordered by a gambling cartel or if it was the work of one disgruntled individual.

The Colombian team arrived in the USA as one of the favourites. They put in a fairly impressive qualifying campaign, the highlight of which was their 5-0 demolition of Argentina in Buenos Aires. This would lead to Pele's prediction that Colombia would win the World Cup.

That turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, like many of Pele's business deals. Amidst murmurings of gambling syndicates and drug cartels hovering over the squad, the team shocked the world by losing 3-1 to a Hagi-inspired Romania.

But worse was to come next. The USA beat them 2-1, with Escobar scoring his apocalyptic own-goal to help them on their way. A 2-0 victory over Switzerland in their final game could not save them from finishing bottom of the group and crashing out in the first round.

And so a few days later on July 2nd 1994, the gunman struck. It's said that the killer shouted 'Goal' as each of the twelve bullets were fired.

It seems overly simplistic to believe that Escobar's murder happened as a result of his own-goal. After all, the whole team under-performed. Unfortunately the murderer chose not to see it that way. Had he or his contractors lost large sums of money as a result of Colombia's early exit?

A postcript to the sad tale is that the gunman was released early from prison in 2005, having served only 11 years of his 43 year sentence. Justice?

LINKS:

Wikipedia - article on Escobar

BBC Sport - from 2002 World Cup preview

BBC Sport - Jan 10 2006 - reminder that Colombian footballers being shot is an ongoing problem

The Independent - March 24 2007 - tradition in sport is to carry on when tragedy strikes

YouTube - clip of Escobar's own goal

YouTube - a tribute to him

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