2/07/1994
Assassination of Soccer Player Andrés Escobar

It appears that the soccer player was murdered for the own goal he scored in the United States World Cup. Photograph: El Espectador.

His life had been marked by the death of his mother, Beatriz, the death of his brother, Juan Fernando, and the injury that stopped him from going to the USA 94 World Cup qualifiers. Photograph: El Mundo.

Soccer player Andrés Escobar on the Colombian Team was murdered in Medellín possibly as punishment for the own goal he scored in the match against the USA in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Between 2:30 and 3:00 am on July 2, 1994, in the parking lot of El Indio nightclub on Las Palmas road, Humberto Muñoz Castro murdered the soccer player Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga, central defender of Atlético Nacional and the Colombian Team..

Muñoz pulled the trigger on his caliber 38 pistol after hearing Santiago Gallón Henao, his boss, say “you don’t know who you are messing with”. With his brother Pedro Gallón, Santiago had been bothering Andrés Escobar in the establishment, shouting “own goal, Andrés, own goal!” at him in reference to the goal he scored in the match against the USA,, the host of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

I had never suffered such an unfortunate match. It’s not easy for a player to face a situation like this (…) It was unfortunate, but I take it as a circumstance of the game.”Andrés Escobar.

Before Muñoz arrived, Andrés Escobar, aged 27 years, who was already inside his vehicle, asked the Gallón brothers to show him some respect. However, the response he received from the driver of one of their trucks was six gunshots, which entered the left side of his body into his lung, stomach, neck and forearm. He died 25 minutes later on the way to hospital.

A Family with a Record

After the events, those involved fled. Muñoz abandoned the vehicle close to José María Córdova Airport. Hours later, he went to report the alleged robbery of the automobile and kidnapping of which he had been a victim. However, the authorities discovered that it was a cover-up to evade responsibility. Santiago Gallón was arrested and his brother Pedro turned himself in.

At the time of the events, José Guillermo Gallón Henao, another member of this family was locked up in Modelo prison in Bogotá for crimes related to money laundering.

During the investigation, “there was something strange. Several of the drug traffickers of the ‘12 del Patíbulo’ group, whose crimes were pardoned in 1993 for their collaboration against Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, defended the Gallón brothers at the Office of the Attorney General. I remember that most of them went to the office to give their versions. So the Gallón brothers not only had money, but also power and friends in the government,” said the attorney on the case of Andrés Escobar to El Espectador on June 21, 2014.

Muñoz admitted to committing the crime so that the Gallón brothers were not implicated and he was released in 2005 after completing a sentence of less than 12 years. Years later, Santiago Gallón was sentenced for covering up the crime and in 2010, he was charged with supporting several blocs of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC, for the Spanish original), for which he had to spend three years and three months in prison. Finally, a judge granted him freedom in January 2019.

A Dramatic Move

On June 22, 1994, Andrés Escobar accidently scored an own goal that gave the U.S. team the lead. With 2-1 as the final score, the Colombian team was eliminated from the World Cup.

“The fact that we thought we were world champions before playing let us down, because all the press and fans were very confident. That put pressure on us because in soccer, anything can happen; as we’ve seen,” said Escobar Saldarriaga.

There were very high bets in favor of the Colombian team that became losses with Escobar’s own goal. That is why the soccer player’s family said the murder was not a circumstantial event and that the perpetrators were the soccer betting mafia.

In turn, the Regional Director of Attorney’s Offices of Medellín at the time, Fernando Enrique Mancilla assured that the murder was not due to retaliation and dismissed that it was related to betting. One of the arguments was that the caliber 38 pistol he was shot with was not one normally used by the hitmen.

News that is Difficult to Accept

When the events occurred, the World Cup was still not over. Journalists, FIFA and international teams described this violence as deplorable and upsetting. There was a collective sentiment of pain and indignation throughout Colombia.

The soccer player was laid in repose at Iván de Bedout Coliseum in Atanasio Girardot Stadium. Hundreds of fans protested there with songs and chants of affection and respect for him. One of them said “Andrés, friend, God is with you”.

Violence Showed no Mercy with Soccer

This was not the first time that the sport had been in mourning due to criminal gunshots.

  • 11/11/1989
  • 26/08/1992
  • 16/04/1993
  • 24/4/1993
  • November 11, 1989

    November 11, 1989

    Referee Álvaro Ortega was murdered.

  • August 26, 1992

    August 26, 1992

    Sports commentator Luis Fernando Múnera Eastman was shot.

  • April 16, 1993

    April 16, 1993

    Soccer player Osvaldo Sierra Pereira, and the manager of the Envigado Club, Arturo Bustamante Santamaría, died.

  • April 24, 1993

    April 24, 1993

    Soccer player for Atlético Nacional, Omar Darío “Torito” Cañas, passed away.

The passing of Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga put a spotlight on the spell of violence that had stolen Medellín and Colombia’s peace for more than a decade. Six gunshots ended the life of one of Colombia’s most outstanding soccer players.

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