Monday, 31 May 2010


As passionately as we may feel about the World Cup, every once in a while we are solemnly reminded of how tragic the consequences can be if the implications of a match are taken beyond the events on the pitch.

The Colombian defender Andres Escobar represented his country at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. On June 22 1994 Colombia lost their second group match to the USA and Escobar had the misfortune to score an own goal whilst intercepting a cross from the right. The result put Colombia out of the World Cup. Ten days later, on July 2, Escobar was shot dead outside a bar in the suburbs of Colombia's second biggest city, Medellin. The killer reportedly shouted the word "goal!" as he fired no fewer than twelve shots.

It is not sure whether the killing of Escobar was purely motivated by a desire to punish the own goal or whether there were other factors. Rumours have circulated that the murder was ordered by a gambling syndicate that had bet a lot of money on Colombia's involvement in the knock-out stages.

120,000 people attended the player's funeral. A teacher at a local elementary school - Humberto Munoz Castro - was found guilty of Escobar's murder in June 1995. Despite being given an initial prison sentence of 43 years for the murder, Munoz was released in 2005 to the uproar of many and outrage of the family.

Escobar was about to marry his girlfriend of five years when he was murdered, Pamela Cascardo. She still keeps his team shirts and medals. There was also talk of him penning a deal to move to the mighty AC Milan. He was known in his playing career as "The Gentleman of football". His life was tragically taken from him at the tender age of 27.

Andres Escobar's father passed away two years ago at the age of 77. It was said of him that he died of a grieving heart, never understanding why his son was murdered and not being able to speak of him. Too many questions remained unanswered in a case where justice was never done.

On the eve of South Africa 2010, where we all wait expectantly and with such anticipation to discover the fate of our teams, we would do well to temper the emotions that will accompany the triumphs and defeats with a perspective on the things in life that truly matter; which of course includes the preciousness of life itself.

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