Pablo Escobar and the Creation of “Narco-Football” (part 2)

Pablo Escobar in Sombrero

Escobar laundered millions though football starting competition between Drug Lords

Pablo Escobar loved to make money and operated his Medellin Cartel with an iron fist killing hundreds of people. He also loved football. After deciding to partner with football clubs Atletico Nacionales and Medellin, he also incorporated the same techniques that he used as a drug lord. Escobar hated to lose and made it known that if that were to happen, people would get killed. Referees and others who stood in the way of a Escobar victory would have the same fate.

• Players flew out to Escobar’s private residence in the countryside to party with him
• Escobar went to several neighborhoods building football pitches
• Escobar ran for politics so he could avoid extradition to the U.S.

Football proved to be a brilliant way to launder millions of dollars. By spending money on higher salaries, foreign players and stadium renovations, millions can be simply “written in” without having been spent while the difference becomes clean money. Ticket sales and refreshment sales can be elevated to inaccurate numbers and the difference could be kept. It wasn’t until the bodies started dropping that gambling news was made.

How drug money can buy success

Atletico Nacional Medellin

His protégées Nacional were the first Colombian side to win the Libertadores Cup in 1989. They allegedly received more than financial support from the druglord

After Atletico Nacional won the Copa Libertadores, Escobar celebrated with his players in the normal fashion. The players would often fly out to Escobar’s private residence in the countryside to party with him. After their victory, the players flew to greet Escobar and he welcomed them with bonuses. Even though the players dealt in their day to day business with the team presidents and their owners, they were fully aware Escobar was behind everything.

Escobar loved football and saw the players as more than just commodities. By viewing the players as friends, Escobar’s relationship with the players went beyond money. Escobar did everything to make sure the players were happy. Long ago, Escobar was poor and decided that the only way to change the country was to steal from the rich. Escobar went from stealing cars to dealing in contraband such as cocaine. His exportation of cocaine made US gambling news.

Although the family wouldn’t learn about the source for Escobar’s wealth, they did see him make an effort to help communities. Escobar went to several neighborhoods building football pitches and providing children with whatever they needed to play football. He knew that the best players in Columbia were poor and many greats such as Rene Higuita, Alexis Garcia, Chicho Serna, Pacho Maturana and Leonel Alvares developed their talent on those fields Escobar built.

Tournaments were organized in the slums and the communities rallied around them forgetting their day to day problems and poverty. Children and families who felt shunned by society, felt important while they played football. Escobar grew up poor and used his drug fortune to help the same people who grew up poor like this. This was a key factor in understanding the relationship between Escobar and the footballers.

Escobar’s lifestyle eventually would catch up with him

Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, Pablo Escobar

The two druglords shared the love of football, and ran “friendly” private matches between their pet clubs and hired international talent

Another major past time would result from Escobar’s personal relations with his players in his private home. Escobar began to hold private football matches at his home. Since he was Colombian gambling law, Escobar would invite other drug lords and their teams to his residence to compete with his players. The most notable of these competitors was the drug lord “El Mexicano”, the financier of Club Millonarios.

Since the two considered each other friendly rivals in the drug trade, Escobar and Mexicano could hold friendly competition on the pitch as well. Escobar would ask Mexicano to pick his dream team. After picking his favorites, Escobar would have them flown in from all over and gather to play against his selections. The hand-picked players would arrive at Escobar’s residence, play football, get paid and be flown home. The common wager for these matches was USD 1 or 2 million, winner take all.

The CIA followed Escobar throughout the 1980’s and followed drug traffickers to football championship matches around the world. The CIA was the only ones who knew football was a religion and the people of Columbia were avid “church-goers.” Escobar was revered as a folk hero and inspired songs. Escobar’s wealthy lifestyle and the U.S. demand for cocaine made people turn the other way until the death of a basketball player named Len Bias, the number one NBA draft pick for the Boston Celtics, from a cocaine overdose.

Officially declaring a “war on drugs” campaign, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed off on the legislation that would extradite known people involved in the drug trade. Escobar was the first to be extradited. In an effort to protect himself from extradition, Escobar entered politics. Growing up poor, Escobar had a connection with his people and used that to help his campaign. As a member of the Columbian House of Representatives, Escobar would be immune from extradition. Until he reached that goal, Escobar refused to go to the U.S.

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