Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

World Cup: Colombia remembers murdered Escobar ahead of Brazil test

By Chris Murphy, CNN
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
A mural in Andres Escobar's home town of Medellin in Colombia remembers the murdered defender. A mural in Andres Escobar's home town of Medellin in Colombia remembers the murdered defender.
HIDE CAPTION
Medellin memorial
"El Caballero del Fútbol"
Own goal
A dark day
Gone but not forgotten
Volatile times
Rampant Rodriguez
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Colombia faces hosts Brazil on Friday in its first ever World Cup quarterfinal
  • Match comes 20 years after the murder of Colombian defender Andres Escobar
  • Escobar was gunned down days after Colombia had exited the 1994 World Cup
  • The 27-year-old had scored an own goal in a defeat to the USA during the competition

How are you celebrating the World Cup? Join the global conversation on CNN Facebook Pulse

(CNN) -- For Colombia this week, two worlds collide.

Its captivating side -- led by the tournament's star man James Rodriguez -- is preparing for its first ever World Cup quarterfinal on Friday, hinting at a future full of promise.

But that glamor tie against hosts Brazil also comes 20 years after perhaps Colombian football's darkest hour -- the murder of former national team player Andres Escobar.

The 27-year-old defender was a victim of a volatile and violent chapter in the country's history, seemingly executed as punishment for scoring an own goal at the 1994 World Cup.

Read: Rodriguez stars for Colombia

Escobar's error contributed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of hosts USA and six days after Colombia's tournament ended, on July 2, he was shot six times by gunmen in his home town of Medellin.

The murder was linked to drug lords who had suffered big gambling losses due to Colombia's exit at the group stage but nothing was ever proven.

Two decades on as Colombia prepares for one the biggest clashes in its history -- delivered by a squad that is seen as a symbol of hope -- the significance of the Escobar anniversary is not lost on the country.

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann applauds the fans after losing to Belgium in a World Cup round-of-16 match Tuesday, July 1, in Salvador, Brazil. Belgium won 2-1 in extra time to advance to the quarterfinals of the soccer tournament. The United States is out of the competition. United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann applauds the fans after losing to Belgium in a World Cup round-of-16 match Tuesday, July 1, in Salvador, Brazil. Belgium won 2-1 in extra time to advance to the quarterfinals of the soccer tournament. The United States is out of the competition.
World Cup: The best photos from July 1
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
World Cup: The best photos from July 1 World Cup: The best photos from July 1
Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup. Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup.
Goooal! Keeping score at the World Cup
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Every goal from the World Cup Photos: Every goal from the World Cup
Fans in Berlin celebrate after Germany defeated Argentina in the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Germany won 1-0 with a goal from Mario Gotze in extra time. Click through to see reactions from fans around the world as they watched their favorite teams compete in the soccer tournament. Fans in Berlin celebrate after Germany defeated Argentina in the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Germany won 1-0 with a goal from Mario Gotze in extra time. Click through to see reactions from fans around the world as they watched their favorite teams compete in the soccer tournament.
Shock and awe: World Cup reactions
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Shock and awe: World Cup reactions Shock and awe: World Cup reactions

Just like in 1994 it has a crop of gifted players ready to gatecrash the party at soccer's top table.

Rodriguez has been the stand out star, his sublime goal in the last 16 win over Uruguay a signpost for the country's emerging potential.

Their jaunty choreographed goal celebrations have also struck a chord with the watching world, who are ever more connected through social media.

This vivacious side has also energized Colombia, the public hoping this verve and swagger can help chart a new path for a country that has for so long been synonymous with drugs and violence.

Whether that happens or not, Escobar will not be forgotten.

"Andrés Escobar - always in our hearts," wrote Colombia's most capped international and Escobar's former teammate -- Carlos Valderrama on Twitter.

"We'll never forget your kindness, your humility and your fight. I miss you bro, I miss you."

The Escobar name will be also present in Fortaleza on Friday.

As Colombia take on not just Brazil's players but also a fervent home nation, Andres' brother and sister will be present, as they have been for every Colombia match in the competition so far.

Maria Ester and Jose will be bedecked in the team's famous yellow kit, complete with Escobar's name and his famous number 2 on the back.

The defender's former teammates Faryd Mondragon and Mario Yepes are with the current squad, but all of them will know what became of one of its illustrious predecessors.

"Andres is with them and the rest of the team in spirit," Maria Ester told FIFA's official website.

"People should enjoy football with passion, but never forgetting it's a game. (What happened to Andres) should serve as a cautionary tale: there is no place for violence.

Brazil Combines Football and Soccer
Two decades documenting soccer in Brazil
Clint Dempsey ready for World stage

"Football should unite the country around a message of peace and love.

"Twenty years is a long time and it's really upsetting to think about, but I prefer to thank God for having given us the chance to have him with us for 27 years, for lending him to us.

"His life was cut short, but he did important things in that time."

The pair accepted an invitation from world football's governing body to attend Colombia's matches, partly to be away from home when the 20th anniversary came around.

"I wanted to escape Medellin, because there Andres's death will be talked about in all the news programs and papers and it would be very tough," Maria Ester explained.

"I'd rather spend it here, with the family, and then hold a memorial service when we go back home."

Escobar was rumored to be on the verge of a switch to Italian giants AC Milan prior to his death after seven years at Colombian club Atlético Nacional.

He also had a spell at Young Boys in Switzerland but it was in his native Colombia he is remembered most fondly, and afforded the nickname "El Caballero del Fútbol" which translates as "The gentlemen of football."

"Sometimes I think it'd be better if people didn't remember Andres every day, because it's really painful," his brother Jose explained.

"But he left a mark, so it's normal."

Read: U.S. dream ended by Belgium

Read: Match fixer denies Cameroon claims

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Keep track of the social buzz at Brazil 2014 with CNN's Facebook Pulse -- find out who the world is talking about.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
It needed 120 minutes to separate the best two teams on the planet, but Mario Gotze's sublime strike gives Germany a fourth World Cup title.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
After 64 games, some huge shocks and 171 goals scored, now it's time to play fantasy football -- who would you pick in a World Cup dream team?
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1055 GMT (1855 HKT)
Germany won the World Cup, but these stats suggest that the host nation came top of the table at Brazil 2014 -- despite a crushing semifinal defeat.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
Bare bellies, an on-pitch streaker, world leaders and superstar selfies -- the World Cup final had it all.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
Having crushed home hopes of success, Germany prevents Brazil's worst nightmare by beating the World Cup host's South American rival in final.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
One of the joys of watching the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players to watch at Russia 2018.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
Stay informed with results of the latest World Cup matches and the full schedule for the month-long tournament in Brazil.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
In the sight of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, the man who would be king awaits his destiny.
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
Germany's semifinal demolition of World Cup host Brazil in Belo Horizonte is the game that seemingly everyone can't stop talking about.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
One of the joys of the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players who have made their mark at Brazil 2014:
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
You thought Brazil's home humiliation was bad? Check out the greatest shocks in World Cup history...
ADVERTISEMENT