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The FIFA World Cup is the biggest event in sports. That’s just a fact. Despite not being the most popular sport in the U.S., soccer is the biggest game in the world. Every four years, the world watches as 32 teams battle it out over the course of a month for the right to be called the best in the world. In 1994, however, only 24 teams competed, the last time that would happen before the expansion in 1998. Andres Escobar and his home country of Colombia were one of those lucky 24.

The U.S. hosted the World Cup for the first time in ’94, kicking off the festivities on June 17, 1994, the same day of the famed O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase. Andres Escobar and his Colombian teammates began play the next day, part of Group A with the U.S., Switzerland, and Romania. Expectations were high as the Colombians had lost just one time in 26 matches entering the World Cup. They gave up just two goals in qualifying.

Colombia’s first match came against Romania on June 18, 1994, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. But the team looked sluggish and were completely outplayed, losing 3-1. This meant their June 22 matchup against America was a must-win that proved to be tragic for Andres Escobar.

Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the U.S. in Colombia’s second game of the ’94 World Cup

The United States had tied its first match of the 1994 World Cup, battling Switzerland to a 1-1 draw. Back then, the top two teams from each of the six groups advanced to the knockout stage, as did the top four third-place finishers. So this was a must-win for Andres Escobar and Colombia, ranking last following the first day of Group A play.

Escobar had been a defender essentially his entire career. It wasn’t his job to score goals. It was his job to keep the other team from doing so. But on June 22, 1994, he scored the wrong kind of goal: the dreaded own goal.

In the 34th minute of the opening half, with the score tied 0-0, U.S. midfielder John Harkes attempted a left-wing cross in the box. But Andre Escobar deflected it. The problem was that he deflected the ball into his own goal, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The U.S. went on to win the match, 2-1.

Colombia did win their third match of the World Cup, a 2-0 victory over Switzerland. But with Romania beating the U.S., the Colombians were eliminated.

Andres Escobar issued what turned out to be a chilling statement

Andres Escobar kicks the soccer ball in a game against the United States during the 1994 World Cup
Soccer player Andres Escobar during the 1994 World Cup

Following Colombia’s elimination from the World Cup, Escobar returned to his home country. The soccer player was determined to move on with his life despite pleas from loved ones to lay low as fans were still upset. Upon his return, he wrote a statement that appeared in El Tiempo, a newspaper in Bogota, reports The Guardian:

“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 paralyze 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.”

Andres Escobar

His statement became one of the most chilling things ever written.

‘The Gentleman of the Field’ was murdered on July 2, 1994

On July 1, 1994, Andres Escobar, known as “The Gentleman of the Field” due to his calm demeanor and clean play on the pitch, went out with friends. They hit up a few bars in Escobar’s hometown of Medellin but parted ways late in the night.

At approximately 3:00 am on the morning of July 2, Escobar was alone in a parking lot. A group of men approached him and argued with him about the unfortunate goal. A scuffle ensued and Escobar was shot six times and left for dead.

Later that night, Humberto Castro Munoz, a bodyguard for certain members of a powerful drug cartel — also a driver for brothers Pedro David and Juan Santiago Gallon Henao, who were highly connected and present at the murder scene — confessed to the murder. Later, he received a 43-year prison sentence.

After serving just 11 years in jail, Munoz was released. Many still believe the Gallon Henao brothers ordered Munoz to kill Escobar. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict. More than 120,000 people attended Escobar’s public funeral. Medellin unveiled a statue of him in 2002.


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