Still Just A Game-Andre Escobar 1967-94
"The World Cup in America, nineteen ninety four,
USA - Colombia, do you recall the score?
And over in the Rose Bowl, the fevers running high,
While on the streets, of Medellin, it's near to do or die.
Colombia were on a roll, the moment it was now,
Their road would be to glory, to sweet success somehow.
I speak of Andres Escobar, I shudder at his name,
The linchpin in a strong defence, and known throughout the game.
They called him 'Caballero', the football gentleman,
In soccer crazy bars and homes, and right across the land.
In front of ninety thousand fans, Colombia v The States,
The stadium heaved to anthem songs, behind the long closed gates.
The minutes gone were thirty three , Colombia's stubborn wall,
Is broken by a hopeful cross, it looked like Andres' ball.
But as he stretched to intercept, the ball spun fast away,
It clipped his boot and in the net, it landed on that day.
An own goal of exctreme bad luck , the sorry deed was done,
And one that proved, to be his last, Columbia lost two-one..
Their World Cup dream now over, disaster in one game,
While friends stood by, a finger dark, sought out the one to blame.
With Med'lin's current murder rate some twenty odd a day
His only ever World Cup goal would prove the price to pay.
Eliminated, they returned, to jeers instead of praise
And Andres' goal, cost him his life, within the next ten days
July the first, a night club, where high up on a hill
They shot him like a dog that night, and Escobar lay killed.
Own goal, own goal, they shouted, as he sat in his car
At point blank range, six times they fired, outside the Padua Bar
On Medellin's streets, they argue still, on such a way to go
A hit man or a drunken rage, but we will never know
A country rife with drugs and guns, so meaningless and sad
How can there be, his father cried, some people quite so bad
That they could kill, my gentle son, that they, his life could take
All for a moment in a game, all for one brief mistake
And now while politicians and drug lords wine and dine
The coke cartels and hit men come thick at any time
Think then upon the price of life - the money and the dream
Those sexy football lifestyles aren't always how they seem
And on those dusty pitches on Sundays you can see
By breeze block slums with washing hung - the dream of breaking free
And still they talk of that World Cup and of the fateful day
When Escobar stretched out too far against the USA.
The above poem © Crispin Thomas 2000, is an emotional account of a terrible day for football and humanity, which appeared alongside a great article by Ario entiltled "Just A Game" which I've re-printed below..I've re-installed this poem (for the third time) in response to Mark Thomas' excellent recent contribution 'Welcome To Hell' a phrase and banner no longer just associated with Galatasary or Christmas Shopping in any huge indoor retail therapy centre nightmare !
"Just A Game" Ario.
Spare a thought for the victim of a mindless crime that occurred ten years ago.
As you have realised, I'm talking about the murder of Andres Escobar.
Colombia were in excellent form before the World Cup. They met USA in a first round game at the Rose Bowl in California. When the scores were level at 1-1, Andres Escobar, the Colombian defender inadvertently put the ball into his own net to put USA ahead. A shock result which sent USA into the second round but Colombia out of the tournament.
All the blame was put onto Escobar but even if he hadn't been there USA would have still scored.
Of course, everyone was to be disappointed but what happened next was inexcusable. Ten days later, back home in Medellin, the 27-year-old defender was shot 12 times in the chest, execution-style, by the bodyguard of an angry fan.
"Thanks for the goal!" he snarled, and shot him dead. All because of an own-goal.
The killer of Escobar, is serving a 42 year prison sentence but it hasn't been totally dismissed the possibility that the slaying was ordered by Mafiosi who may have lost millions in bets as a result of Escobar's error.
The death of one of Colombia's most promising players certainly had an impact on the team. They never appeared as confident as before although officials deny that this is a fear of making a mistake which could see the player pay the ultimate price. Maybe the thought of what happened to Escobar is one of the reasons Colombia haven't reached this years World Cup.
No-one ever wants to see this happen again. It puts football into context, people are passionate about the game but under no circumstances should results be more important than life.