It was that time of the year when soccer lovers had their eyes wide open in front of a television watching the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. Also, it was that time of the year when mobsters had placed their bets on the games, and no one would mess with their plans.
During the Soccer World Cup of 1994, Colombia was one of the teams that had proven its strength, winning Argentina 5-0. Colombia’s supporters were convinced that they would win the game against the United States of America and the drug cartels were thirsty for more money. The underworld had placed their bets and the players of the Colombian national team had to win if they wanted to stay alive. But they didn’t.
The game on 22 June 1994, between Colombia and USA, was not that impressive until its 35h minute when a shocking own goal by Andrés Escobar gave the U.S. a shock 1-0 lead. American John Harkes crossed the ball towards the Colombian defender, Earnie Stewart, and it was deflected by Andres Escobar into the Colombian net. Andrés Escobar was stretching out to cut the cross and clear the ball out of the penalty area. The USA took the lead and Colombia tried to repair Escobar’s error, but the USA won Colombia 2 – 1 shocking almost everyone. 4 days after the game, on 26 June 1994, Andrés Escobar wrote an article for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo apologizing for his mistake. His last line was: “We’ll see each other soon because life does not end here.” He was dead wrong.
On the second day of July in 1994, after Andrés Escobar had cancelled a family trip to the United States and he had chosen to visit his hometown, Medellin, he was hanging out with some friends at a bar in the El Poblado neighborhood. He and his friends left the place and they went to the nightclub El Indio, where Escobar was alone in the parking lot. Three men appeared and started arguing with him when, some moments later, two of them took out their handguns and shot him six times shouting “Goal!” Escobar was rushed to the hospital by some strangers passing by and bled to death 45 minutes later. The 27-year-old soccer player was lying dead and everybody knew who was behind the crime.
Humberto Castro Muñoz was arrested the night Escobar died confessing the next day to killing the Colombian soccer player. Muñoz used to work as a bodyguard for the powerful Gallon brothers who had lost heavily betting on the outcome of the game and everyone believed that they wanted him dead. Gallons had gained their power after Pablo Escobar’s death in 1993 when smaller gangs tried to take advantage of the Heroin King’s absence. Even though Pablo Escobar was not related to Andrés, if he was still alive the Gallons would never have killed the soccer player. Pablo was a huge fan of soccer and he would never allow anyone to kill one of the country’s most important and most beloved players, and Gallons, of course, would have neither the right or the power to disobey the Mob King.
120,000 people attended Andrés Escobar’s funeral and, every year since 1994, people bring photographs of him to matches honoring him. Eight years after his death the city of Medellin unveiled a statue in honor of his memory and his family founded a charity organization, which provides all the basic supplies poor children need in order to get started with professional soccer.
Humberto Castro Muñoz was found guilty of Escobar’s murder and he was sentenced to 43 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 26 years, but he was released on good behavior after serving 11 years. His three accomplices were acquitted.