Andrés Escobar, nicknamed El Caballero del Futbol, or ‘The Gentleman of Football’, was the captain of the Colombian national team that many observers, including Pele, expected to reach the latter stages of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, hosted by the United States. However, in just the second match of the tournament, Escobar, a centre half, inadvertently deflected a cross by USA midfielder John Harkes into his own net; his own goal contributed to a 2-1 defeat by the host nation and, ultimately, to the elimination of Colombia from the World Cup at the group stage.
The failure of a much-fancied team – which had conceded just two goals in qualifying and beaten Argentina 5-0, in Buenos Aires, in its final qualifying match – inevitably provoked a backlash in Colombia. Nevertheless, rather than lying low on his return to his native country, Escobar preferred to engage with his countrymen. In the Colombian national daily newspaper ‘El Tiempe’ he wrote, prophetically, ‘Life doesn’t end here. We have to go on.’
Tragically, though, just five days after playing his final game at the World Cup, Escobar was dead, shot in the back six times while sitting in his car outside the El Indio Bar
in his home town of Medellín in the early hours of July 2, 1994. It was later reported that his killer shouted ‘Gol!’ or ‘Goal!’ as each shot was fired, leading to speculation that the cold-blooded murder of the Colombian captain was an act of revenge by disgruntled gamblers, who had lost heavily betting on the World Cup.
However, at a time when Medellín was in a state of emergency following the murder of drug kingpin Pedro Escobar, Andrés Escobar may have made the mistake of trading insults with known drug traffickers the Gallón brothers, Santiago and Pedro David. Certainly, Humberto Castro Muñoz, a bodyguard to the Gallón brothers, confessed to, and was convicted for, the murder in 1995. Nevertheless, various sources, including
Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, a convicted enforcer for Pablo Escobar, and Francisco Maturana, former manager of the Columbian national team, have suggested that the murder had little or nothing to do with betting or the World Cup.