On June 22nd 1994, at approximately 5:10 pm (Pacific), at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the lanky Colombian defender Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga fatally attempted to block a cross from the American John Harkes towards Earnie Stewart. As the ball deflected off his right leg past his keeper, the potential outcomes, as vivid as it may seem at that moment, were obvious.
The Medellin born Escobar (in no relation to Pablo Escobar who hails from the same city) had once told a journalist why he enjoyed playing:
“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.”
Only a few days later, back home after an early exit from the World Cup, outside a bar in his hometown, a man by the name of Humberto Muñoz Castro, a hit man for the drug lords in the city, unloaded six rounds at him. This too while the tournament was still running.
And all Escobar had asked for was respect while being constantly insulted upon. Even more specifically, mainly because all he tried to do was help his country on the pitch.
In 2010, an Atletico Nacional (Colombian club) loyalist by the name of Felipe Alvarez went on to painfully honor Escobar by having a tattoo of the club’s jersey and the player’s number ‘2’ on the torso. Such was Felipe’s dedication to the man.
However, something tells me that he may be the same Felipe who had foretold Escobar’s imminent danger of life in a statement to his mom at the age of 9 after the own goal.
“They are going to kill Andres.”
Felipe – the nephew of Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga.