2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

12 June - 13 July

2014 FIFA World Cup™

Remembering Andres Escobar

Fans pay tribute to Andres Escobar from Colombia
© Getty Images

Maria Ester Escobar was in Los Angeles on that fateful day, 2 July 1994, and will never forget the moment she found out the news. It was in the small hours of the morning, the sort of time when the telephone ringing is often synonymous with an emergency.

She took a while to pick up and had a lump in her throat by the time she did so. On the other end of the line was Colombia's veteran midfielder Gabriel Barrabás Gomez and, his voice trembling, he confirmed her worst fears: "Maria, something terrible has happened. Andres… Andres has been killed."

For the football world, Andres was a talented defender who had impressed for Medellin side Atletico Nacional and the Colombian national team. But for Maria Ester and the rest of the Escobar family, the 27-year-old was much more than that: "He was our little brother, our pride and joy," she tells FIFA.comin Rio de Janeiro, an unmistakable twinge of nostalgia in her tone.

The pain has not faded, despite the 20 years that have been and gone since Escobar was shot six times outside a bar in Medellin, where he had been insulted and accosted by his fellow countrymen as a result of his own goal at USA 1994. "Sometimes I think it'd be better if people didn't remember Andres every day, because it's really painful. But he left a mark, so it's normal," adds Jose, another of the former centre-half's siblings.

FIFA's invitation triggered all sorts of conflicting emotions among the members of the family who have come to Brazil to watch this summer's tournament. "Especially because of the way the World Cup kicked off, with an own goal [by Brazil's Marcelo versus Croatia]," Maria Ester notes.

"That brought back very sad, distressing memories, but it helped hammer home that it's part and parcel of the game, that these things happen all the time. We're really happy to be here and to have the chance to share in the joy that football can bring, along with everyone else who is here."

Life doesn't stop hereThe Escobars didn't turn their backs on football following Andres's murder. Far from it: they are attending each of Colombia's matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ sporting a Cafeteros kit with the number two and their surname on the back. That is because, just like Andres poignantly wrote in a piece for the newspaper *El Tiempo *after the country crashed out of USA 94, just five days before his death: "Life doesn't stop here".

Unwittingly, this message would help spur on his family to rebuild their lives after the murder. "Twenty years is a long time and it's really upsetting to think about, but I prefer to thank God for having given us the chance to have him with us for 27 years, for lending him to us. His life was cut short, but he did important things in that time," states Maria Ester, visibly moved, going on to express her relief at being outside Colombia for this most emotional of occasions.

"I wanted to escape Medellin, because there Andres's death will be talked about in all the news programmes and papers and it would be very tough. I'd rather spend it [the anniversary of the murder] here, with the family, and then hold a memorial service when we go back home." 

As these words make clear, the events of 1994 have not been forgotten in Colombia, although paradoxically there is also a mood of optimism in the air. This is because the current Cafeteros squad, which includes Escobar's former team-mates Faryd Mondragon and Mario Yepes, has broken new ground by reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

"Andres is with them and the rest of the team in spirit," stress the siblings, before concluding by expressing their hope that the memory of their brother's death can be a force for good: "People should enjoy football with passion, but never forgetting it's a game. [What happened to Andres] should serve as a cautionary tale: there is no place for violence. Football should unite the country around a message of peace and love."

ANDRES ESCOBAR siempre en el corazon de todos nosotros. Jamas olvidaremos tu bondad, humildad y lucha, te extraño hermano te extraño

— Carlos Valderrama (@PibeValderramaP) July 2, 2014

"ANDRES ESCOBAR always in the our hearts. We'll never forget your kindness, your humility and your fight. I miss you bro, I miss you."
Tweet from Carlos Valderrama, posted today

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