July 2nd is one of the saddest dates in football history. Andres Escobar was murdered in the aftermath of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, reportedly as retaliation for having scored an own goal which contributed to the team’s elimination from the tournament.
It was for an own goal. Only for an own goal to the 1994 World Cup. Escobar’s own goal occurred in a match against the United States on June 22, in the second match for Colombia at the World Cup. Stretching to block a cross from American midfielder John Harkes, he inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net. The United States won the game, 2–1. So after he went out of the World Cup, Escobar decided to return to Colombia instead of visiting relatives in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the evening of July 1, 1994, five days after the elimination of Colombia from the World Cup, Escobar called his friends, and they went to a bar in the El Poblado neighborhood in Medellín. Then they went to a liquor store. Shortly afterwards, they arrived at the El Indio nightclub. His friends split up. At approximately 3:00 the next morning, Escobar was alone in the parking lot of El Indio, in his car, when three men appeared. They began arguing with him. Two of the men took out handguns. Escobar was shot six times with a .38 caliber pistol. It was reported that the killer shouted “¡Gol!” (“Goal!”) after every shot, once for each time the South American football commentator said it during the broadcast. The group then drove away in a Toyota pickup truck, leaving Escobar to bleed to death. Escobar was rushed to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later. The murder was widely believed to be a punishment for the own goal. In the UK, the BBC issued a public apology after its football pundit Alan Hansen commented during the match between Argentina and Romania that “the Argentine defender warrants shooting for a mistake like that”, on July 3, a day after the murder of Escobar. Escobar’s funeral was attended by more than 120,000 people. Every year people honour Escobar by bringing photographs of him to matches. In July 2002, the city of Medellín unveiled a statue in honour of his memory. Humberto Castro Muñoz, a bodyguard for members of a powerful Colombian drug cartel,[clarification needed] was arrested on the night of 2 July 1994, confessing the next day to the killing of Escobar. Muñoz also worked as a driver for Santiago Gallón, who had allegedly lost heavily betting on the outcome of the game. He was found guilty of Escobar’s murder in June 1995. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 26 years because of his submitting to the ruling penal code in 2001. Humberto was released on good behaviour due to further reductions from prison work and study in 2005 after serving approximately 11 years. His three accomplices were acquitted. As part of the 2009–2010 documentary series 30 for 30, ESPN broadcast The Two Escobars, by directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, which looked back at Colombia’s World Cup run and the relationship of association football and the country’s criminal gangs, notably the Medellín Cartel run by Pablo Escobar (who was unrelated to Andrés). It is suggested in the program that, had Pablo Escobar still been alive, the Gallón brothers would not have targeted Andrés Escobar, as it was widely known that Pablo Escobar was a fervent supporter of the Colombian national football team. There are also allegations that the Gallón brothers bribed the Prosecutor’s Office to redirect the investigation towards Muñoz as the triggerman – and the Prosecutor’s Office contends that Muñoz was simply following orders from the Gallón brothers – but prosecutors lacked credible evidence to convict them. Pamela Cascardo, the girlfriend of Andrés Escobar, believes that the accusation of the Gallón brothers’ bribery of government officials is supported by Muñoz’s having killed a national celebrity and served only 11 years in prison. After 24 years, however, there might be a new breakthrough. In January 2018 Santiago Gallon Henao has been arrested once again at the Venezuelan border; this time not for sponsoring paramilitary groups, like in 2010, but for his well-known involvement in drug trafficking and for being involved in the Andres Escobar’s murder. After Escobar’s death, his family founded the Andrés Escobar Project to help disadvantaged children learn to play football. Escobar was born in Medellín on March 13, 1967. He grew up in a middle-class family. He attended Colegio Calasanz and graduated from Instituto Conrado González. He participated in school football teams before becoming a professional football player. Prior to his death, Escobar was engaged to his girlfriend of five years, Dr. Pamela Cascardo, a dentist. Escobar was killed five months before their wedding was to have taken place. His father is Darío Escobar, a banker who founded an organization that gives young people the opportunity to play football instead of being on the streets. His brother, Santiago, is a former footballer who played alongside Andrés at Atlético Nacional before moving into team management in 1998. Escobar’s murder tarnished the image of the Colombia internationally. Escobar himself had worked to promote a more positive image of Colombia, earning acclaim within the country. Escobar is still held in high regard by Colombian fans, and is especially mourned and remembered by Atlético Nacional’s fans. In a newspaper column published shortly before his killing, he said of Colombia’s World Cup: “It’s been a most amazing and rare experience. We’ll see each other again soon because life does not end here”.