Born in the same city in Colombia but not related, Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a fanatical love of soccer. Andrés grew up to become one of Colombia's most beloved players, while Pablo became the most notorious drug baron of all time. As Pablo's criminal success accelerated, his personal interest in (and financial support of) soccer became mirrored in a broader cultural fervor. The Colombian national soccer team rose to unprecedented glory, ultimately coming to a head when Andrés' shocking mistake in the 1994 World Cup lost his team the title, and lost his nation the chance to redeem its international image.
Mobilizing an encyclopedic arsenal of archival footage, Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist (Favela Rising, TFF '05) paint a portrait of a culture so invested in and defined by its sports team that one high-stakes mistake on the field could shatter its national identity, and ultimately cost a man his life. While adeptly investigating the intersections of crime, sports, and nationalism, the Zimbalists reveal the surprising connections between the murders of Andrés and Pablo Escobar.
Director's Statement Collapse
Our films tend to focus on disenfranchised communities in the process of rising up and transforming their political and economic circumstances. We choose these stories due to the scale of their historic importance—this is where societies are shaped.
By comparison, sports have often felt like mere diversion, games limited to the playing field. At times, we have both drifted from the passion for sports we shared as young athletes and fans, engaging ourselves in other endeavors as seasons of professional competition passed by.
Then, invariably, definite moments in sports history would grab our attention and turn our logic upside down. Like in 1994, when an athlete named Andres Escobar was murdered for accidentally scoring an own-goal that cost the Colombia National Team a chance at winning the World Cup and transforming its negative image on the international stage. Here was a country with national identity so integrally connected to the success of its soccer team that one mistake on a playing field dashed the pride of an entire nation and cost a man his life.
Looking into the incident, we learned that the dramatic rise and fall of Colombian soccer was inextricably tied to the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel, considered by many the ruling party of Colombia at the time. Sport in Colombia was not only mirroring the personality and politics of society, but also an inseparable part of that society—the playing field was an extension of the streets and offices where influential decisions are made.
On our journey through diverse walks of Colombian society during production, it became clear that this was far from a classic deal-with-the-devil narrative. Rather, this was the story of the passions and dreams of a people intrinsically tied to the rise and fall of a team. Stories such as this revive our childhood fascination with sports and confirm the fundamental role they play in shaping our world.