36. Italy 90 world cup, 5–0, murder of Andrés Escobar, Alida, German reunification
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.
We seldom talked to father on the phone, except when Mother was running out of money. Mother used to call him from a pay phone, always from a different location in the city, allowed us to say hi, how are you, yes, we are doing fine, we never said we loved each other, took the handset back, told him what we needed, and hung up. She kept the calls short, always less than three minutes. She thought that, like it happens in the American movies, the person at one end could trace the call and the location of the speaker on the other side if this time frame of three minutes was exceeded. She didn’t hesitate telling Father the number of the bank account, though. Six or seven months later Mother told us we were going back home, back to the House in the outskirts of Bogota. And then, memories blurry. It was in that city that in June nineteen, nineteen ninety, I saw how Freddy Rincon, black and tall attacking midfielder of the national soccer team, scored a goal between the legs of the German goalkeeper Bodo Illgner in the forty seventh minute, twelve seconds, of the second half, ensuring the survival of the national team in the soccer world cup being played that year in Italy. In the forty third minute, after an exhausting game that was still tied at zero, Pierre Littbarski scored a goal over the head of the Country’s goalkeeper, an idiosyncratic man known as El Loco (The Fool) for his unique playing style. When the fans were already leaving the stadium Leonel Alvarez recovered the ball, passed it to Luis Bendito (blessed) Fajardo who passed it to Carlos El Pibe (The Kid) Valderrama, famous for his distinctive mane of blond, curly hair, Valderrama dribbled one, two german players, passed the ball to Freddy Rincón, Rincón barely just touched it and sent it back to Fajardo who passed it to Valderrama again in a quick move. Valderrama immediately understood Rincon’s solitary escape through the right flank and made a deep pass to him. Rincón, practically alone, touched it one, twice, before facing Illgner, voted the best European goalkeeper the next year, thanks in great part to his excellent performance during the world cup, and as he saw the keeper approaching, with arms and legs wide open like a crab, kicked the ball between his legs and into the net. Soccer was the perfect medicine to forget all the blood and terror of the times. The whole Country jumped and hugged and screamed of joy that day.
The lives of some of the players present during that world cup changed, and not necessarily for the better. The goalkeeper Higuita, according to his own words friend of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, spent more than six months in prison and missed the next world cup. Rincón, who scored the miracle goal, was charged with drug trafficking and money laundering due to his friendship with another drug trafficker, coincidentally also named Pablo. Rincón has been, at the time of writing these words, cleared of charges. Bendito Fajardo was charged with money laundering and spent three months in prison before being released for lack of proof against him. His son Luis, aged twenty four, died years later in a traffic accident. The murder of defender Andrés Escobar made international headlines.The Country’s team was one of the favorite to win the United States nineteen ninety four soccer world cup, after having beaten the Argentinian, twice world champion, in Buenos Aires five to nothing during an unforgettable qualifying match. I watched that game on a screen on the first floor of Father’s office with one of his employees. I jumped and shouted and laughed when Rincón scored the first goal, Faustino Asprilla the second, Rincón scored the third, Asprilla the fourth, and Adolfo Valencia the fifth and final. Meanwhile, a group of prostitutes, I clearly remember a young girl dressed in black and white, went up the stairs and stayed inside Father’s office until the game was over. The Country’s squad lost the game against Romania, what many thought as a weak opponent, three to one. During the second match against the United States squad in June twenty second, Escobar scored an own goal. The Country’s team lost the match two to one. They won the third match against Switzerland two to nothing but were nonetheless eliminated. In July second, just a week after the final game, Escobar was murdered after an argument with two brothers in the parking lot of a restaurant. The driver of the brothers got off the car and shot Escobar six times in the head.
Journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos wrote the phrase that summed it all, Su muerte nos permitió palpar el tamaño de nuestra degradación moral como sociedad (his death allowed us to feel the size of the moral degradation of our society). Grandmother decided to stay in Cartagena. I went back to see her during the school holidays, three or four times before I left the Country. I was fifteen or sixteen during one of those trips, and still a virgin. I found two things. I found first, after a soccer match with the kids from the building, that puberty had hit and I needed to start wearing deodorant if I wanted to keep people around me. I also found Alida. Alida was pretty, fifteen, short, blond, and had skin that glowed like gold. We took walks, held hands, swam in the dark waters, took naps on the sand, laughed and kissed, with care, since she was wearing braces. I liked her, and she liked me, and I was still a virgin, so we tried to stay together even after my holidays were over. She came to Bogota once and stayed at her uncle’s with a bunch of her cousins. I visited her there and we took walks, held hands, laughed, except that this time we were always guarded by one of the cousins. The uncle, sensing the virginity of his niece in danger, had instructed all of them, and they were many, to keep an eye on us. We kissed, in the rare moments of distraction, with care, since she was still wearing braces. After she left I called her daily from Father’s apartment, and we talked a lot at first, and then less, and then much less, and then we didn’t. I hope she is doing fine. But I went too far. Back to nineteen ninety. West Germany squad won the Italy nineteen ninety world cup. The Deutsche Einheit, the German reunification, was signed in August thirty first, published in September, and completed in October of that same year, after forty five years of occupation and separation.
As from nineteen forty five, The United States, The Soviet Union, The United Kingdom, and France, the occupying powers, had split the country in four and imposed die fünf Ds (the Five Ds) on the country, dismantling, demilitarization, denazification, democratization, and decentralization. Millions of Germans went into exile, died or were expelled when part of the German territories went back to Poland and the Soviet Union. Hunger prevailed. Concentration camps for ethnic Germans flourished.