Nineteen years ago this week, Colombian international defender Andres Escobar was shot dead when he returned to Colombia after scoring an own goal in the game against USA in the 1994 World Cup. It’s a dark and depressing story, even if that is all you know about the story is in that sentence. But there’s much, much more to the story than that.
Pablo Escobar, probably the most famous drug kingpin in the modern age, was a heavy backer of Colombian football at that time. Meanwhile the Colombian national team had a very strong side which under the management of Francisco Maturana was playing their part in restoring pride to the country, and playing a small part in helping to unite a divided nation.
There is so much of the nature of Colombian football at the time, and Pablo Escobar’s involvement in Andre’s team Nacional, that’s fascinating. Pablo Escobar’s influence extended beyond the corruption of government officials (which you’d pretty much expect from large scale drug dealers) into the political and football worlds.
The Two Escobars uses interviews, playing footage and news coverage to look at the background and the effects of Colombia’s top clubs being used for money laundering, and developing a ‘win at all costs mentality’ that really meant at all costs. Saying that Pablo Escobar made Jose Mourinho look indifferent and half-hearted in his pursuit of victory would actually be an understatement.
The overlap between the drug lords and the top football clubs was so huge that, even as someone who’s grown cynical about the modern game I found a lot of the story hard to believe. Pablo Escobar’s time in charge of Nacional makes him one of the darkest figures to be heavily involved in football…but his influence wasn’t all bad.
But The Two Escobars is a story with colour and flavour, looking at the lives of two men raised in the kind of extreme poverty that most people can’t imagine, and painting a complicated and morally nuanced picture. Andre and Pablo, although no relation, grew up in the same neighbourhood in Medellin, Colombia, and there is the strong suggestion that Pablo genuinely cared about the poor in his neighbourhood, investing heavily in homes and neighbourhood football pitches amongst other things. Of course, it could all be propaganda to win their support, but it makes Pablo Escobar a far more complicated figure than the idea I had in my mind.
The Two Escobars is an incredible story, compellingly told, and if you’ve got an hour and a half to spare, I strongly recommend watching it.