Sometimes the only judge for a good movie is the emotional experience we go through as the characters on film overcome trials and fight for a dream that might only be real to them. This emotional experience is also the reason I love watching old soccer highlights. Seeing a player score a goal that is seemingly impossible, seeing how all the stars of the futbol universe have to be aligned for the ball to edge it’s way into the corner of the goal, and then seeing the grand celebrations that follow with players jumping on top of each other mixed with the occasional acrobatic maneuver always gives me goosebumps. Finally, I’ve found a documentary that combines the emotions of players with the emotions of sports competition, creating a compelling narrative of a real-life villain and hero. The documentary is a part of an ESPN series named “30 for 30.” Within this series is a documentary titled “The Two Escobars” which follows the lives of Adres Escobar, famous Columbian soccer player, and Pablo Escobar, the infamous leader of the deadly Medellin Drug Cartel. Although these men led very different lives, both die fighting for a “dream” of what Columbia could have become.
One of the things that this specific documentary does so well is show the connection between sports and culture. Soccer, arguably the world’s most popular sport, becomes a connecting factor between these two Escobars and their means of reaching out to the Columbian people. Pablo Escobar gains the hearts of many by using his cocaine money to build soccer fields in the slums of Columbia, indirectly providing for many of the world’s greatest soccer players by giving them the oppurtunity to begin their careers in local tournaments. In a different way, Andres Escobar uses his soccer skills and fame to help the impoverished of his society and stay out of the trouble that Pablo Escobar’s cocaine business has brought to Columbia. This documentary poetically places both of these men in the same story line and uses soccer as the thread which weaves together their stories to the lives of every Columbian in the 1990’s.
Recalling the death’s of the Escobars leads to a question about honor and servitude. After Pablo Escobar is gunned down by another political party, the poor of Columbia come out in droves to mourn his death. This socialistic society saw Escobar’s drug business as the only means of giving the poor an equal leg to stand on and to fight against the huge social gap that seems to be prevalent in most Latin American countries. One of the most telling images is when a viejita goes to Pablo Escobar’s funeral and cries over his coffin, calling him a “savior” and grieving as if she has just lost a member of her own family. Andres Escobar’s own death tells a completely different story. After losing in the World Cup and embarrassing himself on a world scale, Andres decides he must be a positive image for the Columbian people who have so much to be ashamed of at this time. His death, at the hands of people who Pablo Escobar might have been able to control, show that even Andres’ own life was somehow protected by Pablo’s drug money. Sadly, as Andres’ former coach recalls, Andres was killed by the society he was attempting to renew.
Even though I know very little about Latin American politics and the whole drug business, I can say, I know sports. As a sports lover, I enjoyed this documentary profoundly. I think the directors of this documentary picked a perfect story line to show this relationship between the struggles of a team and the struggles of country. With interviews from Andres’ team
mates and interviews from Pablo’s hit men, one comes to perceive the deep familial relationships that are formed on a sports team and in a business where everyday could mean life or death. The sports highlights do not take away from the drama of Pablo’s drug cartel. The soccer games act as an art form, imitating the short-lived financial prosperity of Columbia and the extreme violence that plague’s every aspect of Colombian society.
Perhaps the most compelling point of the documentary is the reminder that both Escobars attempt to achieve their dreams for noble reasons. Pablo’s cousin recalls that Pablo decided to begin his crime ring in order to “steal from the rich and give to the poor.” Andres’ family also remembers that Andres wanted to use his natural talent and charisma to affect Columbia and create a national image of his country that bespoke honor and integrity. Pablo’s divergence from good and Andres’ tragic death show life’s true drama: sometimes, good does not overcome evil. Overall, the documentary’s message seems to be this: one can either live a life of hope, or one of destruction. Sadly, in this story, the life of hope ends far too soon.
Mercedez Gonzales is a sophomore Literature major/ Latin minor at Ave Maria University.