30 for 30: Season 1, Episode 16

The Two Escobars (22 Jun. 2010)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography | Sport
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The rise of Colombian soccer is attributed to the influx of drug money into the sport by Pablo Escobar and the other drug cartels. However, the team's swift decline after Escobar's death results in the murder of star player Andres Escobar.


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
María Ester Escobar ...
Francisco Maturana ...
Alexis García V. ...
Jaime Gaviria Gómez ...
Jhon Jairo Velásquez V. ...
Rubén Darío Pinilla C. ...
Juan José Bellini ...
Fernando Rodríguez Mondragón ...
Eduardo Rojo ...
Leonel Alvarez ...
Luz María Escobar ...
Luis Fernando Herrera ...
Fernando Brito ...
Tom Cash ...
Alirio López ...


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, many believe, Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel and the Cali Cartels were largely responsible for financing and building the Colombian National soccer team into one of the world's best. But in an early match against the United States in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, a Colombian defense man named Andres Escobar-no relation to Pablo-committed an own goal that led to the team's elimination. Less than ten days later, Escobar was gunned down outside a bar in a suburb of Medellin. He was shot 12 times, and the murderer shouted "goal" each time the trigger was pulled. Was Escobar's murder an isolated incident, or were gambling organizations controlled by the cartels responsible? Award-winning director Jeff Zimbalist will examine the mysterious events leading up to and surrounding Andres Escobar's death. Written by Anonymous

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22 June 2010 (USA)  »

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Football crazy
5 July 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I caught this documentary on ESPN, the sports channel but this fascinating film deserves much wider exposure. As a football fan, I vaguely remember the story about the Colombian footballer, supposedly murdered by a disillusioned fan for his team's poor performance in the World Cup of 1992. I was grateful to be put right on the circumstances of his death but also to learn of the intertwined story of the slain footballer Andres Escobar's namesake Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug-baron coincidentally with a passion for football.

Each of the two stories could certainly have been worthy of a film or documentary of its own, but it was certainly an imaginative stroke by the director/producers Zimbalist brothers to combine the two stories and by so doing paint a vivid bigger picture of the wider Columbian society in the late 80's and early 90's.

The football story may just have been a pub argument that spilled over into a fatal row, but it's not clear. What is clear though is that Andres Escobar seemed to be a good footballer and a decent man, keen to portray a better image of his country to the world at large on the stage of the world's biggest sporting event. Sadly the team under performed and lost both their opening matches, eliminating them from the tournament at the earliest opportunity, with the fatal own-goal by Escobar against the unfancied USA proving vital. On returning home, albeit in disgrace, he played down the significance of the failure with an optimistic dictum that "Life doesn't end here" and despite stories of heavy gambling losses suffered by gangsters, who may have been out for blood as a result, refused to stay indoors and hide away as most of his team-mates did. His violent death (shot six times in the back) and the apparent setting up of a patsy to take the blame for the two gangsters likely behind the deed, reunified the country in its indignation against the criminal fraternity.

The counter story of the other Escobar, Pablo is even more fascinating. His rags to riches story echoes Al Capone's in the ruthless way he got to the top of the drugs cartels and yet he became popular with the country's poorer citizens by building houses and sports facilities for them, fuelled by his love of football, albeit as a means of a massive money-laundering operation. Targeted by the George Bush-led US government's in the war against cocaine dealers, Escobar cleverly if brutally played the system,using bribery and intimidation to have himself elected an MP to avoid his extradition to America.

However his tenure as an untouchable drew rivalry from other drug barons and a combination of this and a steelier government resolve saw him initially jailed and later hunted down and slaughtered when on the run. With his demise the flow of money into football which had boosted the game immeasurably, stopped and Colombian football fell back down the ladder.

The twin narrative is fast-paced, cutting from one story to the other, with contributions by interested parties, especially on the football side. The viewer is left in no doubt as to the lawlessness of the country and the delicate position its sportsmen were placed in by having to cooperate with the drug-lord paymasters. Verite footage of the rise and fall of the national football team and Pablo Escobar are interspersed with the interviewees to tell a shocking story.

I found it fascinating and found myself feeling naturally sorry for the gentleman footballer so senselessly killed but much more ambivalent, as I believe I was meant to over the Robin Hood-type figure of the altogether more complex Pablo Escobar.

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