The 1994 World Cup in the United States is widely remembered as a landmark moment for football in the United States, as it was the first time the country had hosted the world’s biggest international competition.
However, for many Colombians, the tournament will always be remembered for a tragedy that occurred off the field.
In the 1994 World Cup, Colombia were considered one of the tournament’s dark horses. The team boasted a talented squad, including the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla, and Andrés Escobar.
However, the team’s hopes were dashed in the group stage when they lost their second match to the hosts 2-1, with Escobar scoring an own goal that ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.
For most footballers, scoring an own goal is a nightmare scenario. However, for Andrés Escobar, the consequences of his mistake were far more severe than the embarrassment that comes with scoring in your own net.
Just a few weeks after returning to Colombia following the tournament, Escobar was shot and killed outside a nightclub in Medellin.
Many believe that his own goal against the United States was the reason for his murder. There were reports that one of the three men involved in his death yelled the word “Gol!” (goal) as he fired each of 6 bullets into Escobar.
This was allegedly in reference to the commentator shouting “Gol!” numerous times after Escobar’s mistake against the USA.
The main theory on Escobar’s murder is that it was ordered by drug lords from Columbia, who had allegedly lost huge sums of money betting on their national team to progress in the tournament.
The day after Escobar’s fatal shooting, the bodyguard of a known drug baron was arrested and confessed to the murder of the footballer. It is alleged that a gang known as “the Gallons” were responsible for ordering his death, but they were never prosecuted.
There are also reports of some fans burning effigies of Escobar and vandalizing his family’s home.
Escobar was a beloved figure in Colombian football, and although his own goal was a huge disappointment for their nation in the 1994 World Cup, the vast majority of their supporters would have never wished such a consequence on him.
If anything proved that it was the minority of Colombia’s supporters who wished ill upon Escobar, it was his funeral.
Over 120,000 fans appeared to show their respect for him, and each year fans bring photographs of him to matches in remembrance.
The incident remains a dark chapter in the country’s history, and it did massive damage to the image of Colombia. Escobar himself had been involved in projects to try and better the image of the country, making his death an even more tragic loss for their people.
Andrés Escobar’s family have continued his good work, starting a foundation in his name after his death. The Andrés Escobar Foundation is geared towards helping disadvantaged children towards playing, and becoming involved in football.
Although nothing could ever make up for the needless loss of Andrés‘ life, and the devastation it brought to his family and friends, it serves as a comfort to know that his legacy lives on through his family and the Andrés Escobar Foundation.