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Oscar Pareja's match with Pablo Escobar

  • ESPN, Friday, May 25, 2012 2:16 PM

Rick Reilly talks to Colorado Rapids coach Oscar Pareja, who recalls the time 20 years ago in his native Colombia he and six of his Independiente Medellin teammates were summoned to the La Catedra -- the government-built luxury prison where notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar was held -- to play Escobar and his guards.

Pareja says he never told until now the story of meeting the Escobar, who had ordered the murder of thousands, in jail. (Escobar was killed by Colombian police in 1993 after escaping from prison.)

"There were fine couches in there," remembers Pareja. "And TVs. And they gave us snacks to eat. And then a bunch of bodyguards came into the room, and then [Escobar]. And it made me wonder, 'Who, exactly, is the prisoner here today?'"

Escobar talked with Pareja, then, 23, even calling him by his nickname, El Guapo.

"That day I can't forget," says Pareja. "He sat next to me talking about [soccer] with great passion and knowledge, for an hour. He knew everything. He said to me, 'Why do you yell at the refs so much, Guapo? We pay them. This does no good.'"

The pros won the soccer game, but Pareja says the score was close.

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1 comment about "Oscar Pareja's match with Pablo Escobar".
  1. Carlos Thys, May 30, 2012 at 4:04 p.m.

    Somebody needs to do a book on this. I once saw a long TV documentary (not done by a US organization) on the life of the two Escobars, where they intersected. That is not a world I'd ever want to live in or be near. Corruption from start to finish. Either "play ball" and "play along" or prepared to be gunned down in alleged "crossfire." Or have a family member "roughed up." Pareja says that Colombia has changed? Oh? Sure, in some ways. But it is still way too uncertain, way too unpredictable. Way too unsafe. And sports results are still to be doubted - in full.

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