The two Escobars

Two-EscobarsGood and evil are, in most cases, hard to be separated. They deeply coexist in each one of us, enough to make prosper a series of movies, comics, cartoons, based on detachment of this two sides of personality, sometimes even physical: good side against bad side. It’s a simplistic vision of the feelings which make us who we are. Other times, good and evil are easy to recognize, but not only coexist, they contribute to the same cause. Andrés and Pablo have many things in common: the “illness” for soccer and the last name, Escobar. But a totally opposite nature.

The two Escobars is a documentary made by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist in occasion of “30 for 30”, a review that celebrates the 30 years of life of the sport channel Espn with 30 films. This one clearly narrates the rise and fall of Colombian soccer between the 80’s and 90’s. Years in which Andrés and Pablo are main characters, with different roles, obviously. Or they wouldn’t represent good and evil.

Pablo Escobar doesn’t need introduction: just the most famous and dangerous drug lord of all times. Born in Rionegro in 1949, he became the undisputed boss of Medellìn cartel. He has to wash cocaine money and he love football, the purchase of the team Atletico Nacional de Medellìn comes by itself. He got resources, so the best players are not forced to go abroad to reach success, the club flourish and wins Copa Libertadores in 1989, the South American version of European Champions League. Is the first Colombian team to get this achievement. Plus, Pablo Escobar got his ethic code, like Mario Puzo’s Godfather. He helps “his” people, the poor ones of Medellìn, building soccer fields for those who had no place to play and houses for the homeless and the inhabitants of some slums that aren’t even slums, but mountains of garbage. Poverty-stricken himself in his childhood, Pablo keeps the will for “social redemption” of the lower classes typical of South America (and not only). But he twist it all with criminal activities. Anyway, he’s seen like Robin Hood, he did more than the State for many people down there.

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar

Andrés is humble and shy. He also wants to do something for his Country, but not in the easy way. He chooses a road paved with struggle and sweat. The only thing he wants is to play soccer and he believes that even that can contribute to better the image of Colombia, associated to violence in sports too. Reasons that made Fifa deprive Colombia from the organization of 1986 World Cup just three years before the event. It’s fatal, Andrés ended playing for Pablo’s Atletico Nacional, but he just did his job, without getting involved in other stuff. Not imagining that Pablo could have been a “guarantee”.

Yes, because even though Pablo was a merciless killer, ready to use violence in sports too, corrupting, menacing, killing, whatever it took to win, as boss of all bosses, he maintained a sort of “order”. Who wanted to commit a crime, had to ask for his permission and, it’s a paradox, after his death in 1993, the situation degenerated. Because everyone tried to replace him, and a war was started, swallowing everything around, provoking chaos in the streets. Like the opening of Pandora’s box.

Soccer reflected this situation, like a mirror of society. National team was recovering from the goofy elimination in Italy ’90 World Cup against Cameroon, due to a clamorous mistake of the goalkeeper Renè Higuita, who lost the ball trying to dribble his opposing. During the qualifying for the next World Cup, Colombia set a series of winnings, including a 5-0 in Argentina in the crucial match. According to experts, Colombia could have been the surprise in Usa ’94, having a solid group made precious by the goalie Higuita (crazy moments excluded), the defender Andrés Escobar, the midfielder Carlos Valderrama and the striker Tino Asprilla. A mix of quality, technique and strength.

From the left, Valderrama, Higuita, Alvarez

From the left, Valderrama, Higuita, Alvarez

But everything goes wrong, in conjunction with Pablo Escobar’s decline, like he was a symbol. In 1991 Pablo gives up to police. He invites the National team in prison to play a match in the courtyard. Is mandatory for players, even Andrés, that would avoid that, is forced to. Some other are happier, like Higuita, who will pay the friendship with Pablo with jail, accused to be a mediator in a kidnapping. The arrest will make him lose the World Cup in the States. Then in 1993, as said before, Pablo’s death and mayhem, in the Country and in sports.

The first World Cup game is a nightmare: 1-3 with Romania. Colombia plays better and has several chances to score, but loses. Then, is death threats. The underworld of illegal bets is dangerous and cruel, players and coach Francisco Maturana know that. They come from Atletico Nacional or other teams managed by drug dealers. After the defeat with Romania they come back at the hotel and every tv has a registered message which says: next match Barrabas Gomez must not play, he has to be replaced by Hermàn Gaviria, or everybody dies. So, the second game with the United States starts like this, with this “black hand” upon, like the press will say. And it’s a decisive match, if you play with this pressure, you have already lost.

June 22, is the big day. Even this time Colombia looks like under a spell, wasting a lot of opportunities to score. Then, the bottom. Minute 35, Harkes cross in the box, Andrés is at the wrong place at the wrong time. He deflects the ball trying to save his team, but surprises his goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba. It finally ends 2-1 for Usa, and Colombia is out of the World Cup one game earlier – victory with Switzerland will be useless.

Andrés fatal mistake

L’autogol fatale di Escobar

At the moment of the own goal happens something that shouldn’t. Players look at each other terrorized, Andrés maybe understands everything, but worse his little nephew at home in front of the tv understands everything. He tells his mother, Andrés sister, “they are going to kill him”. A thought that no 9 years old kid should have, but he is also a mirror of society. But Andrés is pure, maybe even too naïve. Back in Colombia, he ignores the advices to stay calm, locked at home. He feels guilty, he wants to apologize to his people, putting his face. He does it the night between 1 and 2 of July, in the parking lot of a club of Medellìn, with some people that insult him. He ends up shot by the bodyguard of two brothers affiliated to Los Pepes, acronym for “Persecuted by Pablo Escobar”. Enemies not less violent than the dead boss. “Thanks for the own goal”, is the macabre signature.

The life of a very promising defender and clean boy ends at 27, when he was about to go to A.C. Milan, which was winning everything in those years and understood a lot about players. That’s the irony, he was murdered less than a year later Pablo, by the very same organization. Even though he never liked Pablo, because he was one of the reasons that gave Colombia that sinister fame. But destiny can be cruel, and associate by the name, in life and death two people that would have been at the antipodes. Not caring, mixing in its pot good and evil, at least leaving us clues to still discern them.



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1 reply »

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