Andres Escobar was a defender who captained the Colombian national football team during their best years. However, the memories of him as a great footballer is overshadowed by his tragic murder—a death that is strongly linked to his own goal during the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Drug syndicates, who lost large amount of money on Colombia’s early exit, are said to be behind Escobar’s murder. Although the gunman was caught, many questions still linger about the death of the man known as the ‘Gentleman of Soccer.’
The 1994 World Cup in the United States
Colombia was highly favored to win the World Cup 94, so much that many fans thought that the group stage was merely a formality: their team only has to breeze through it to reach the quarter finals.
Such confidence was inspired by the Colombian’s superb performance during qualification. Among their morale-boosting feats is their 5-0 qualifying win over Diego Maradona’s Argentina in Buenos Aires.
June 18, 1994
Great expectations were immediately upset in the World Cup as Colombia lost their opening match to Romania, 3-1. The defeat made it necessary for the Colombians to win, or at least draw, their second match against the United States to avoid any chance of elimination.
June 22, 1994
Colombia started their match against the USA strong, displaying their skills and fierce attacking early into the game. Still scoreless in the 35th minute mark, USA made a run to the Colombian goal, led by John Harkes.
Harkes attempted a cross towards teammate Earnie Stewart, who was inside the penalty area. Escobar attempted to cut the pass but it deflected off his right foot and into his own goal. It gave the Americans a 1:0 lead and the game ended in a 2:1 defeat for the Colombians.
June 26, 1994
The loss to the United States simply meant that Colombia should win against their third assignment, Switzerland, and hope that Romania loses against the United States for them to advance. Colombia did win 2:0 against the Swiss but Romania won as well, sending the highly favored team back home at group stage.
Colombia’s poor performance: drug cartels and death threats
While the National Team was away in the United States, another game was going on at home. Drug syndicates were betting whether Colombia would win or not: some put their money on the Team’s success, some on their defeat.
An unknown syndicate group threatened midfielder Gabriel Gomez that they would kill him if the team does well in the tournament. This prompted him to withdraw from the team during the World Cup.
On other hand, another syndicate group threatened the Team with death if they did not win the cup. Seemed like there was no way out for the team, which led to their poor display in the tournament.
Andres Escobar’s return and murder
Andres Escobar was born in Medellin, Colombia, and his love for his home city is well-known. Aware that his life was in danger after his autogol, he still chose to go home and face the consequences of his mistake. His action confirmed the nickname that he long held, ‘El Caballero del Futbol’ (‘The Gentleman of Football’).
July 2, 1994
On the evening of the first of July, just days after returning home, Escobar went out for a drink with his friends. They went to several bars until they arrived at a bar called ‘El Indio.’ After staying at El Indio, Escobar and his friends decided to go home at around 3am.
Escobar and a friend parted at the parking lot, each walking to his own car. As he was about to leave, three men went to Escobar and shouted abuses at him. 12 shots were heard in a few moments. Andres Escobar was shot dead in the back while seated inside his car.
After every shot, the gunman shouted “Goool!”, which seemed a mockery of Escobar’s own goal at the World Cup.
Reason for Escobar’s murder
Escobar’s death is seen as retaliation by gamblers who lost big money to the unsuccessful campaign of Colombia in the World Cup. However, a notorious Colombian mafioso who goes by the name of “Popeye” says the death of Escobar is caused by a simple altercation.
Inside El Indio, Escobar was mocked by the Gallon brothers, members of the Colombian drug cartel, for his own goal. He left the bar but he was still pursued by them all the way to his car.
Andres Escobar maintained his dignity by talking back, saying he did nothing wrong. This offended the Gallon brothers, who ordered their bodyguard to shoot Escobar.
The loss of a beloved hero
Many lamented the death of the gentleman who goes by the name of Andres Escobar. He was loved by fans and family for his humility and his honest hard work on the football pitch. He was simply the ideal footballer that serves the best example for children.
His demise was even made more regretful by the fact that he could have chosen to play football in some other country and live there for his own safety. At age 27, the talented and hard-working Escobar could have done much more in his career.
None of the people lamented Escobar’s death more than his fiancé Pamela Cascardo, a dentist in Medellin who had been his girlfriend for five years. They were set to be married in ten days at the time of his passing.
Escobar’s murderer: arrest and controversial release
The man who killed Escobar was later identified as Humberto Carlos Munoz. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison for the hideous murder but he was released in October 2005, just a little over 11 years after the killing of Escobar. “Good behavior” is cited as the reason for the early freedom of Munoz.