Film examines Colombian soccer's Faustian bargain

Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:42pm EDT
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By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Colombians lament that their country is best known for exporting cocaine, which overshadows accomplishments in the arts and letters, commerce and sports.

A documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York shows Colombia at a moment of glory -- the rise of the 1994 national soccer team -- but one inevitably taken down by the malevolence associated with the drug trade.

"The Two Escobars," by brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, crams 100 minutes of alternating joy, thrills, heartbreak and tragedy into a film that tells a story little known outside the South American country.

Huge sums of cash provided by drug lords including one man named Escobar -- the notorious Pablo -- helped promote the careers of a generation of soccer stars including another Escobar -- the devout and humble Andres.

The documentary, part of ESPN television's "30 for 30" series, interviews all the principals except the two Escobars, both of whom are dead. Pablo was gunned down by police while on the run in December 1993 and Andres was shot dead for a rare mistake in an otherwise brilliant career.

Colombia's president at the time, Cesar Gaviria, former players and football officials and even jailed members of Pablo Escobar's inner circle appear on camera, finally able to speak freely about a cathartic moment in the country's history.

"Fifteen years later is enough time. It's no longer so dangerous to talk about it," Michael Zimbalist told Reuters.

Andres Escobar had never scored an own goal in his life until the 1994 World Cup, when he accidentally deflected a ball into Colombia's own net in a 2-1 loss to the host team also known for being periodically humiliated by other Latin American teams on the football pitch.   Continued...