The 1994 World Cup, held in the United States, was a huge financial success and kick-started the increasing legitimacy of professional soccer in America. But it was marred by a horrifying event that seemed to confirm the suspicions of those who associate the sport with violent, irrational passions.
The American team's unlikely path to the second round was paved with an upset victory over Colombia. South American soccer power is concentrated in Brazil and Argentina, but Colombia's hopes were high—in part because drug money had fueled the national team's resurgence. The team's No. 1 fan was Medelln drug lord Pablo Escobar, who had been killed the previous December, while the unrelated Andres Escobar was a defender on the squad. It was an error by the latter that would lead to the crucial American victory and Colombia's crushing departure from the tournament. Ten days later, the world received the shocking news that the unfortunate player had been murdered in Medelln, in a hit purportedly ordered by enraged drug lords who had suffered heavy losses betting on the home side.
Filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist examine this dark stain on soccer's reputation in The Two Escobars, a film commissioned by ESPN as part of the channel's excellent "30 for 30" series of sports docs. Tonight's free screening, part of the N.C. Latin American Film Festival, begins at 7 p.m. with an introduction by Jeff Zimbalist. —David Fellerath