The Relationship Between Colombian Soccer And Kingpins

By Peter C

Colombia is not a world power when it comes to football matters, and the country does not command fear in the hearts of opponents. But, if you are familiar with history, you will know that in the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia was a den of hardened drug lords – some of the most feared and notorious throughout the world.

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It was during this period that the so-called golden generation of Colombian footballers represented the South American country. The sports thrived during this time mainly as a result of a whole lot of laundered drug money being pumped into building quality soccer fields alongside huge incentives for players and coaches alike.

During this era of football success in Colombia, records have it that at least six different professional clubs had links with drug cartels. These drug cartels were associated with various nefarious activities like kidnappings, briberies, and murder cases.

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Notable among the drug lords back then was the famous Pablo Escobar, who pumped a lot of money into Atletico Nacional, developing the club and making it a powerhouse even on the continent. Escobar was, at a time, the mastermind behind most of the cocaine entering the United States.

Unsurprisingly, his investments in the club eventually paid off when Nacional defeated Paraguayan team Olimpia in 1989 and became the first Colombian club to win the Copa Libertadores.

Also, at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, eight of the 22 players invited to the Colombian national team were Atletico Nacional players. Notable among them was Rene Higuita, who was the goalkeeper.