Two men named Escobar, both born in Medellín, both shot to death. The first was Pablo, the cold-blooded drug lord, mass murderer, and soccer obsessive who reigned over Colombia like a bloated, blood-soaked, black-eyed Komodo dragon. The second was Andrés, a fútbol star with a thin, bony face who eventually sunk his country's World Cup hopes by scoring on his own net. On December 2, 1993, Pablo was caught and killed by the Colombian National Police. Less than a year later, Andrés was murdered in the street outside a bar called El Indio. The two Escobars were dead.
In a way, these were isolated incidents. But ultimately, the real link was soccer. Or, as Colombia's high-stakes, cocaine-funded fútbol feuds of the late '80s and early '90s were nicknamed: "narco-soccer." In a sort of twisted adopt-a-team program for coke kingpins, the world's most infamous traffickers would funnel drug money to their favorite clubs. José Gonzalo Rodríguez (AKA El Mexicano) sponsored the Millonarios. Miguel Rodríguez bought out América de Cali. And Pablo Escobar paid the way for Medellín's Atlético Nacional.
The whole thing was basically a money-laundering scheme, but it was also a strange and genuine expression of the cocaine cartels' love for Colombian soccer. And narco-soccer was a winner. As one coach recollects in the new ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary The Two Escobars: "The introduction of drug money into soccer allowed us to bring in great foreign players and keep our best players from leaving," he explains. "We didn't change our behavior. We were just paid more. The result was that our level of play, it took off."
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Even hard-core gamblers began to bank on Colombia's chances in the 1994 World Cup. Then team captain Andrés Escobar put the ball past his own goalkeeper and got killed for it. In front of El Indio, the murderer screamed the insane refrain "Goaaalll!" 12 times. Once for every bullet.
So, it's there at the intersection of drugs and sports, death and glory, Pablo and Andrés that The Two Escobars lives. The documentary premieres June 22 on ESPN. But you can catch a free preview screening at Cosford Cinema next Tuesday, plus a postfilm Q&A session with directors-slash-brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. There will be coke. There will be crime. There will be cartels and Colombian soccer.
A special screening of ESPN's The Two Escobars: Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami, 1111 Memorial Dr., Coral Gables. The movie begins at 7 p.m. and is free. RSVP by June 11 to 877-387-4804 or ESPN@prconexion.com.