Friday, July 18, 2014

Movie Review: ESPN: 30 for 30: The Two Escobars

 This documentary made by ESPN 30 for 30 and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.  It tells one of the most tragic stories in sports history.  The own goal of Andres Escobar, and his murder less than a month later.  It also tells the story of Pablo Escobor, not a relation to Andres, but the head of the Medelin Drug Cartel.
Pablo had started as a small time thief, stealing cars form the rich, but became rich in running producing and running drugs, especially cocaine.  Pablo Escobar, despite being a drug runner and murderer; also thought of himself as a Peter Pan.  He was a billionaire, and used his to help the poor.  He made lighted soccer fields in many communities.  In a slum he made everyone homes.  The community was called Pablo Escobar.
The rise of the Colombian team was phenomenal.  They went from being  a team that never had any success, to being ranked fourth in the world.  The cause of this, to a great extent, was drug money.  Many cartels found soccer clubs to be a great way to launder money.  As the drug cartels put money into soccer, there was great rivalry between clubs, and also more money to pay players, and to form a nucleus of soccer players with great talent, who stayed at home to play.  One of these was Andres Escobar, who played defender for Atletico Nacional, the team owned by Pablo Escobar.  They won the Copa Libertador (South American Championship) in 1989.  After a controversial call in the Colombian finals, Pablo had ordered the death of a referree who was murdered. 
One of Pablo Escobar's main positions is that criminals should not be deported to other countries, especially the United States.  He ran for congress and won, getting the vote of the poor.  He had the goal of changing the deportation law, so he could not be deported.  However, as a member of congress he had diplomatic immunity.   However the congress kicked him out because of his past. 
Pablo Escobar began a war with the government.  He murdered politicians who favored the deportation.  He planted bombs to influence people against the government, proving they could not keep people safe.  He was responsible for the murder of assorted judges, politicians, over 500 policemen, at least one referee and thousands of rival cartel members who displeased him.  His men would ask politicians, do you want silver or lead, meaning take our bribes or we kill you.  Most would take the bribes.  In this way, Pablo had great influence.  He finally influenced enough so the constitution was changed, and no longer would criminals be deported.  He then gave himself up, and was imprisoned at Catedral Prison, a prison of his choice, and where he could continue running his organization.  Two rival drug runners were murdered in the prison after he arrived.
At the same time Colombia had become on of the most successful teams in the world, qualifying for the World Cup by defeating Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires.  Their 26 matches leading up to the World Cup, they had lost only two.  Pele had them as favorites.  They were ranked fourth in the world. 
Pablo Escobar insisted on visits by the team while he was in prison, and they were too scared not to go, including Andres.  However, their keeper, Rene Higuita, was too public in his visits, and got himself arrested.  The government said for his involvement in a kidnapping, but he said they only asked him about Pablo Escobar.
The government became embarrassed by the situation, and arranged for the U.S. to invade the prison and take Pablo Escobar to the U.S.  However he was forewarned, and the prison was empty when the got there, Pablo was free again.  However, while he was in prison, things had changed.  An organization, PEPEs (People persecuted by Pablo Escobar) with made of of rival cartels, and people from his own cartel who had been threatened to change, and government officials.  This organization threatened Pablo to turn himself in or his family would be killed.  Several members of his family were executed, and then Pablo himself.
The government had felt with Pablo killed, violence would decrease.  However, the opposite happened.  There was more violence.  Pablo had kept a lid off of some violence, disallowing kidnappings etc.
In this environment Colombia traveled to the U.S. in 1994 for the World Cup.  They keeper was in jail and he was replaced.  They lived constantly under threat of murder, or their families could be kidnapped.  They unexpectedly lost their first match to Romania 3-1.  Romania relied mostly on defense, and counter attacks. 
Their second match was against the U.S.  Colombia still played under threat of murder.  In fact the entire team was threatened by one of the drug cartels if a certain player played in midfield.  The rival cartel wanted their own players to be seen.  The coach relented and sat the player.
Colombia  outplayed the Americans, but the ball never reached the net.  At one time the U.S. almost ceded an own goal, hitting their own goal post, but then making the save.  Later in the game John Harkes, U.S. midfielder controlled the ball up the left side, and then crossed to an American player in front of the net.  Andres Escobar intervened to kick the ball away, but he careened it into his own goal.  The U.S. won 1-0.  If Andres had not intercepted the ball, the American player would have had the ball in front of the net with only the keeper to beat, likely a goal anyway. 
The Colombia side won their next match with Switzerland, but were eliminated from the tournament.  Upon returning to Colombia, the entire squad was wary for their safety.  However, Andres decided he wanted to see his fans face to face.  He was bothered at a bar by someone saying, "nice goal."  Andres tried to smooth things over, but they had none of it so they decided to leave.  While in the car, he was approached from behind and six shots were fired.  He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The truck the murderers left in belonged to drug runners, but only their body guard was arrested.  Andres had been invited to write in the paper after the own goal.  This was published a couple days before his death 

"Life doesn't end here. We have to go on. Life cannot end here. No matter how difficult, we must stand back up. We only have two options: either allow anger to paralyse us and the violence continues, or we overcome and try our best to help others. It's our choice. Let us please maintain respect. My warmest regards to everyone. [A Great hug for all]  It's been a most amazing and rare experience. [It's been a great opportunity and phenomenally rare experience.]  We'll see each other again soon because life does not end here"

This movie is available on You Tube. 

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