My first world cup since I came back to Mauritius was the 1994 World Cup, which was a sort of non-event for me…Was it because my mind was mainly focused on the fact that months earlier, I had fulfilled my dreams since early childhood to become a barrister or was it that there was not much excitement in my own mind in the build up for the World Cup? I was also fully aware that in the States football was not a popular game. So why play it there? The bottom line reasoning is that in the heads of the FIFA dictators it must have been about its commercial appeal. From my memory, I cannot remember any match that I can rewind or review in my own little head. But what I do remember is the brutal and public murder of Colombia’s Captain after he had scored an own goal in the match against the USA.
Colombia did not come to the States as a “Colombe” but with a record of 25 victories out of 26 matches played. Any decent Argentinean fan will surely remember their qualification match against Columbia, which they had to win to qualify. But to the surprise of Pele and Maradona, Colombia won by 5 – 0, which triggered a standing ovation from the Argentinean fans at the end of the match. The Colombian team was brimmed with talents which the world had not yet discovered as the majority of the players were playing their football in Colombia where the big teams were bankrollers for the Cartel of the Drugs Barons. But still one can remember the flamboyant Carlos Valderama, Alexis Garcia and Faustino Asprilla.
The Colombian team was besotted with all sorts of dreams. In Florida, the team Manager Maturana was helpless as he was forced to drop players and field players he did not want. And in the 22nd minute of the match, after much domination by the Colombians, following a cross from USA, Escobar rolled the ball past the helpless Cardoba: the first own goal of his career. Back home, his family knew that the doors of hell had opened and it was just a question of time before he would be murdered.
Before this match, never before had the USA beaten Colombia. The match ended 2 – 0. Pele’s predictions that Colombia would be in the semi–finals did not materialize but the gut feelings of the majority of the peaceful Colombians did come true… Yes… In the early hours of the 2nd of July 1994, the world was shocked to learn that the captain of Colombia and darling of his home town had been shot 6 times! Gunned down in cold blood. Hundred thousands of Colombians paid homage to him. Weeping fans threw flowers as his body, draped in the National Flag, went to his final destination. The fans chanted for “Justice” waving the Colombian flag. The inquiry was a miscarriage of justice as money was poured in by the Mafia. Following his own goal, on his return to Columbia Andres Escobar wrote “…it’s been a most amazing and rare experience. We’ll see each other again soon again because life does not end here…
For those who do not know Andres Escobar, he is not related to Pablo Escobar who was on the shot by the police on the 2nd of December 1993. Pablo Escobar, the Head of Medellin Cartel, was so powerful that players were “forced” to pay him regular visits in the Cathedral Prison. Despite being a ruthless murderer, blood thirsty and one of the most powerful Mafia Cartel in Latin America, he was popular among the working class. He was the owner of the Athletico Nacional, which won the 1989 Copa Libertadores. Others say, was it not for the death of Pablo Escobar, nobody would have dared to attack his namesake as no murder is done without his “go ahead”. This is why today we fear for the one who has injured Falcao.
The other shock during the 1994 World Cup was that my greatest footballer of all time was removed on the 1st July 1994 after he found positive for five variances of Ephedrine. The news caused havoc in Argentina. 1994 did not stamp my memory. 1994 was stamped with sadness but not with football on the pitch. I do not even remember where I was on the day of the final.