Andres Escobar was part of the highly rated Colombian team that was bound for the 1994 world cup in America. The team lost their first game 3-1 against Romania but had the opportunity to make things right in their subsequent encounter with the hosts the USA.
On the stroke of 35 minutes, US midfielder John Harkes launched a cross from the right-hand side of the pitch into Colombia’s 18-yard box. Andres Escobar made a run back, sliding on the ground to clear the ball from reaching the waiting striker. Unfortunately, his interception only diverted the ball into his own net. Colombia were down 1-0. His teammates rallied around him but it didn’t happen; they soon conceded another goal. They managed to score one in the 90th minute but their world cup was over. Colombia got eliminated in the group stage.
On his return, Andres apologized to his country, even taking out a column in the newspapers to offer his apologies. “Life doesn’t end here. We have to go on. Life cannot end here. No matter how difficult, we must stand back up. We only have two options: either allow anger to paralyse us and the violence continues, or we overcome and try our best to help others. It’s our choice. Let us please maintain respect. My warmest regards to everyone. It’s been a most amazing and rare experience. We’ll see each other again soon because life does not end here”, he wrote in El Tiempe. Little did he know his own life would end there.
In the early hours of July 2 1994, Andres Escobar was sitting in his car in the parking lot of a nightclub. Three men were said to have walked up to him and started an argument. Before he knew it, one of them had opened fire. The killer shot him three times, reportedly shouting ‘Goal’ each time he fired before driving off. Bystanders rushed the 27-year-old footballer to the hospital where he died within the hour.
His death shook the country to its core. Here was another Escobar who unlike his namesake, was actually trying to bring the country together with his athletic gift. He had paid the price for an error in his duty with his life. More than 120,000 people showed up at his funeral. Till today, he’s still regarded as a hero in that country and a statue was erected in his honour in 2012.
His killer was arrested soon after. Humberto Muñoz Castro was found guilty of murdering Andres Escobar at the behest of his boss, Santiago Gallon Henao who they claimed lost millions of dollars in a bet following Escobar’s own goal. Henao was released after investigations while Castro was found guilty of the murder. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison but only served 11 years.
It is commonly said that football should not be a matter of life and death but for Andres Escobar, it turned out to be exactly that.
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