Written by El-Khoury
In December 1991, a peculiar story would be written in Pablo Escobar’s personal prison, well-known as “La Cathedral”. The greatest Cocaine godfather would meet up with his closest and most loyal customer. We are talking of course about Pablo Escobar and Diego Maradona.
But let us start from the beginning, the “La Cathedral” prison in Medellin was owned by the 7th richest and most dangerous man in the world. The largest cocaine trafficker on the planet, Pablo Escobar. Will you tell us is he was jailed? Yes indeed, but… Escobar had not been arrested, however agreed with the Colombian government to be imprisoned in his own prison, which he had essentially built himself, and was guarded by people he had chosen!
The “father” of cocaine was “forced” to give himself in order not to be extradited by the Colombian authorities in the United States, who have been demanding to find him in the early 1990s. The alleged prison quickly became known as the “Hotel Escobar” or “Club Medellin” due to the amenities it offered. Among other things, it had a Jacuzzi, a waterfall, a large bar (for parties) and a regular football field! It was built on a hill overlooking the Medellin airport to follow the planes flying over. The planes were the ones that brought money from the cocaine trafficking with the scoop!
Escobar and football
Commenting on the construction of the stadium in the prison, one would say that this action, reflected his passion of “El Patron” for football, which was not only philological, but also tangible. Pablo was a fan of Independiente Medellin but decided to interfere in the administration of Atletico Nacional for money laundering.
Of course, Escobar, in addition to his criminal activity, gained fanatical followers for his public benefit work. Construction of schools, hospitals, parks, and football fields in slums mainly in his hometown of Medellin and specifically in the favela called Comuna 13. If one calculate that 4 million is the population of Medellin and 60% live below the poverty line in favelas in Colombia’s second largest city, this indicates why the common killer for us, Pablo Escobar, is a big help and leader to the people living there.
Private matches in the “Cathedral” prison
One of Escobar’s favorite habits was to regularly arrange private matches in the “Catedral” prison, so that he and his associates could play, but also to bet huge amounts on the victory of one or the other team. The 11 teams often consisted of amateur footballers from his company, but sometimes also from well-known players, whom he paid generously to attend. Among them are international Colombian players. In fact, the following surreal scene took place to cancel the training of the National team, for the whole tournament to be forwarded to another date and come to his “yard” to play ball with him!
Maradona in the “Cathedral”
In December 1991, the most famous football player in the world would set foot in “Cathedral”. Diego Maradona, who was serving a 15-month ban from football, was found to be positive in a Cocaine test!
“A very important man from Colombia wants you to visit him to play a friendly game. The fee is very high”, his friend and agent Guillermo Coppola told him, with Diego accepting the proposal, without asking much.
Other well-known Latin American footballers will also take part in this match. The rival team of Maradona that day would be the team of the famous Rene Higuita, a friend of Pablo Escobar, who learned to play football on the pitches that Pablito had built in the community.
“It was more like a five-star hotel in Dubai than a prison. They introduced me to Escobar and told me: Diego, this is the boss. He was very kind, but I had no idea who he was, as I did not read newspapers or watch TV at the time. All I knew was that a very important Colombian man wanted to meet me,”Maradona said.
After the two men talked a bit about football, Escobar expressed his admiration, not only for the football skills of the ball legend, but also for their common lifestyle. “He told me that we were both born in poverty and managed to climb high,” Maradona said.
For the record, no one has ever learned if the winner of the friendly was Maradona’s or Higita’s team and the match was of little importance, as a huge party followed. “Immediately after the game, there was a party with the best and most beautiful girls I have ever met in my life. And he was in prison! I could not believe it. He paid me the next morning and we said goodbye,” Maradona said.
The end of Escobar
It is worth noting that Pablo Escobar had joined the “Cathedral” on the condition that he stay there for 5 years. But when four of the federal guards were tortured and killed in July 1992, the agreement collapsed, and the government decided to move him to a regular prison.
Escobar, having served only 13 months in prison, managed to escape and from there onward a ruthless manhunt began. Sixteen months after his “escape”, his shelter was located and during the operation a special force of 600 men of the Colombian army, specially trained by the US Delta Force, and the paramilitary mafia group caught him. “Los Pepes”. That was the end of Pablo Escobar at the age of 44. In his attempt to escape, he was executed on the roof of a nearby house.