Familiar faces in Colombian drama
© AFP

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!"