The Two Escobars a draw for viewers

By Herb Scribner

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Soccer films are seldom, but once in awhile there is a gem among the gravel – a film that shows that soccer is more than just a sport and how it can actually control a nation.

For soccer fans, ESPN’s documentary “The Two Escobars” hits home where others wouldn’t. Not only does it show a slew of clips of the world’s sport, but it also displays the power that soccer has over a nation.

The documentary focuses on Andres Escobar, a Colombian soccer player who allowed an own-goal in a 1994 World Cup game, and Pablo Escobar, a villainous internationally-know drug lord. It shows that the two, as opposite as they may appear, have many similarities – especially in the way they were brought up and some of the ideals they hold on to. While Pablo’s ideals lead him to murder for a greater cause, Andres keeps his ideals on the pitch.

The film shifts focus from one Escobar to the other. It highlights many of Pablo’s workings with soccer teams in Colombia – he was a supporter of the Colombian club, Nacional, for which the second Escobar played. It then goes back to illustrate Andres and his lifestyle. The movie creates an impressive backdrop of the Colombian soccer nation, and builds the viewer as a fan of Colombia.

This leads to the ultimate tragedy of the film. Interestingly, when the United States soccer team – and it should be assumed that most who watch the film would root for the United States soccer team – defeats Colombia, viewers feel compassion for the Colombians and surprisingly, see the U.S. as a villain.

The documentary benefited from showing clips from the games highlighted within the film. At one point there is a montage of games that the Colombian team won from 1991-1994 which shows just how dominant and impressive it was. It gave the viewer a clear indication of the skill the team had and showed just how popular and dynamic the Colombians were during that era.

Some of the downfalls come from the fact that Pablo is given more time on-screen than Andres. While viewers will get a decent painted picture of what Andres’ life is like, they will never truly get enough depth from his story as they do from Pablo’s. In effect, the story is less about both Escobars as it is actually about how one Escobar (Pablo) affects the other (Andres).

Andres’ murder is the turning point in Colombian soccer; it’s the point in which the nation lost its momentum and declined in the rankings.

Seeing Colombia’s rise and fall in soccer in less than two hours shows a unique characteristic of soccer in general. Soccer can take a hold of an entire nation. Pablo Escobar, who was controlling the Colombian underground, loved soccer and often times it drove his political motives, as shown in the film. His death, coupled with the team he favored and the national team he supported, led to the death of Andres and, arguably, the death of Colombian soccer.

Soccer is the world’s sport, affecting more lives across more countries than any other. The documentary demonstrated how deeply invested people can be something that is just a game, but simultaneously, so much more than that. It also showed how cruel people can be motivated to act because of their feelings about a team or specific game.

Viewers will enjoy the film because it is action-packed. When it even begins to hint at stale dialogue or interviews, it kicks right back with vibrant highlights of a soccer match.

Not only will viewers learn of a great tragedy and gain some perspective on the other side of the pitch, but they will also look into the eyes of a man who is often explained to be an evil figure in Pablo Escobar. A story not often told, Escobar’s tale is highlighted in the film as he gains sympathy from the viewer to become a hero. “The Two Escobars” teaches viewers to look at the other side of the spectrum; that sometimes things are out of humanity’s control.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]