15 Years Ago

World Cup Heroes and Villains

Welcome to the start of our journey where each week, all the way up to the start of the World Cup, we will profile a player who made an impact at a World Cup. What was their story and what ever happened to them? Well, that’s what we’re here for!

It’s Only a Game!

Andres Escobar Saldarriaga once told Colombian journalist Gonzalo Medina why he enjoyed playing football. According to the national team’s defender, “this sport illustrates the close relationship between life and the game. In football, unlike bullfighting, there is no death. In football no one dies; no one gets killed. It’s more about the fun of it, about enjoying.”

Escobar did what millions of footballers have done since the game was invented; he conceded an own goal. It happened in a World Cup match vs the USA (possibly not the best opposition to do it against) in 1994. An important game for Colombia, yes but what happened next would shock the entire world. For Escobar, it was the only own goal he ever put past his own keeper during his career and it would prove to be the mistake that would cost him his life.

Murder

Only a few days later— on July 2, 1994— a bodyguard called Humberto Muñoz Castro, who worked for the brothers Juan Santiago and Pedro David Gallón. He was shot six times in a parking lot of a bar in Medellín. The player had gathered there with some friends to grab a drink after his return from the States. He had come back to Colombia to “face the country”, canceling a family trip that would take him and his family across the United States, from coast to coast.

Colombian writer Ricardo Silva Romero, who published Autogol (Own goal)— a novel based on the player’s tragedy—, describes Andrés as a tragic character. “He was the only person who shouldn’t have gone through that. He was a good boyfriend, a good son, a good colleague and a good uncle.” He was a talented footballer who had massively helped his nation reach the 1990 World Cup for the first time in 30 years and was apparently lined up to play for AC Milan after the 1994 tournament.

The incident re-affirmed negative stereo types about the violence in Colombia and the control that organized crime had in the country.

Tragic

Muñoz Castro, the gunman, served 11 of his 43 year sentence. This was due to “good conduct.” The Gallón brothers only spent a few days behind bars, after paying a fine.

The footballer’s father died recently and his family said it was due to a broken heart.” Sad, to say the least.

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