Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | June 29, 2010

Dangerous Fans

To watch the enthusiasm of Ghanaians playing the USA last Saturday was contagious. Go, Ghana! The red, yellow and green faces scintillating in the stadium. The businessperson next to the ambulant salesperson, all in awe: who was controlling the ball? Go. Ghana! (I traveled to Accra in 2008 to participate in the Pan African Literary Forum as the winner of the OneWorld Contest for non-fiction writing. www.panafricanliteraryforum.com. So, GOOOOO GHANA!)

The feelings of pride and self-worth and national unity experienced by Ghanaians, as well as by Africans as a whole, to have earned the possibility to take home a victory against the richer, better-resourced USA reminded me of the 1994 World Cup. Colombia was playing the USA. Colombia arrived as one of the favored teams and the expectations were high. The stadium was packed with the yellow, blue and red. The horns blew, the flags fluttered. GO, COLOMBIA!!

Then, Andres Escobar, Colombia’s tall lanky defender, scored a goal on his own team. In his face, seconds after it happened, you see the defeat and the disappointment forming the empty hole in this twenty-four year old’s stomach—the realization that his life will never be the same again.

(Watch Andres Escobar’s goal, here.)

Andres was the team’s captain. He could not walk down any Colombian street without being asked for an autograph. He was who the advertisers called when they needed a role model. Before the World Cup, he already had offers to play with Mexican and Italian teams, and to his fiancée, he spoke about what their life would be like in Milan. In that second of confusion, when the ball slid off his leg and he kicked it toward his own team’s net, all that was finished.

The team returned to Colombia with long faces, and the country greeted them with equal chagrin. It was hard for Andres to leave his house in Medellin; the taunts, “nice goal” and “you caused us the game,” accompanied him everywhere he went. His team members, who feared for their own lives, advised Andres to stay home, to lay low. The once-happy fans were beyond angry.

One night, July 2, 1994, Andres felt he needed to break out of the self-imposed prison in which he was living, and he went out to a disco. There was the expected teasing, “congratulations on that goal,” “loser,” “nice goooaaal.” And Andres drank to numb it out. Later, at 3 a.m. in the parking lot, people approached him and began accosting him. Someone yelled “fag” and someone else touched his behind. Andres erupted back.

Then, he was shot. The killer yelled “GOOOOOOOOAL” for each of the twelve bullets fired from the 38-caliber pistol.

Apparently, the mafia had made large bets on the team winning, and Andres scoring on his own team lost them a lot of money. Humberto Castro Muñoz, a driver for the Gallon brothers, a family of powerful drug traffickers, was found guilty and sentenced to forty-three years in prison. He was released after serving eleven years due to good behavior.

More than 3,000 people attended Andres’s funeral. His shooting made world headlines. The fans, suddenly, had a change of heart: “This is shameful,” and “This should not have happened to a young man,” and “Why did this happen?” Through tears, the fans erected a statue in Medellin to honor Andres.

Andres Escobar’s story exposes raw human nature. In one second, the passion of disappointed fans turned them into raging beasts; then, the finality of death transformed them into weeping repentants.

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Responses

  1. Andres was shot 6 times. He wasn’t hounded ‘everywhere he went.’ He was loved by most people in Medellin. There are idiots everywhere and he just argued with the wrong people, -the Gallon brothers. People like the one that had enabled his own and his team’s meteoric rise,, only they didn’t care as much about soccer as Don Pablo and shot him when he got defensive. He was shot in his vehicle in the parking lot, by two animals, just as he was pulling out. Only one person ever went to jail, for 11 years.. long since released.


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