Familiar faces in Colombian drama

Colombia’s class of the 1990s will forever live in the hearts of its nation. Los Cafeteros reached the Round of 16 at Italy 1990, thrashed Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires to reach USA 1994 unbeaten, and made it three successive FIFA World Cup™ appearances at France 1998, all the while playing a breathtaking brand of football that filled its people with pride.

With Colombia on the cusp of guaranteeing a place at Brazil 2014, television network Caracol TV is capitalising upon football fever with its new TV series – one based on the enrapturing story of Faustino Asprilla, Rene Higuita, Freddy Rincon and especially Carlos Valderrama. Unsurprisingly, La Seleccion - seen in the above photo - has stormed to the top of the ratings chart.

“I initially turned the part down because I thought I looked nothing like him,” explained actor Edgar Vittorino, who plays the wild-haired Valderrama. “But when I saw photos of him when he was younger, I realised we actually did look alike, that with the same hairstyle I could pull it off.

Vittorino didn’t take the role lightly: “I travelled to Barranquilla to meet El Pibe, to Santa Marta to meet his family and learn everything I could about him, and to Pescaito, where he grew up, to help understand him and how hard he had to fight to make it. I also watched all the footage I could of El Pibe, read as much as I could about him, and practised [football] for three hours every day.”

The results have been mutually delighting. “El Pibe is really happy with my portrayal of him,” said Vittorino, a smirk of satisfaction on his face. “He thinks I’m doing a good job imitating how he talks and acts.

“And the viewers are loving the series. People on the steet hug me and tell me I've done a good job. They tell me they feel like they're actually watching El Pibe!"