Friday, December 6, 2013

La Selección Colombiana y la Copa Mundial

(Note: I wrote this post a two months ago. The show is not on Unimas anymore. It disappeared without too much warning ahead of time. The first 49 episodes are available on Hulu Plus Latino which you have to pay for. Colombians living in the United States know that there should be more episodes than what was shown because in Colombia, there were over 80-something episodes. I, along with many others, am very disappointed that I couldn't see the end of the series.)


A few months ago, I somehow stumbled upon a Colombian soap opera called La Seleccion on the channel Unimas. My husband was so excited because the show told the stories of the players who brought so much pride and joy to all Colombians in the late 80s and early 90s. I was excited to find something we could both watch together and enjoy. He could relive those years, and I could get caught up in the drama all while practicing my Spanish.

La Seleccion  follows the career of four of the players who formed part of the team who brought glory to Colombian soccer. The show shows where each player came from and how they got to play for the national team. The four players are - Carlos "el Pibe" Valderrama, Faustino "Tino" Asprilla, Freddy Rincón, and Rene Higuita. Each man represents a different part of the country - Valderrama from Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, Asprilla from Tulua in el Valle del Cauca, Rincon from Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast, and Higuita from Medellin, Antioquia.

It was great because I really got to learn about the different Colombian accents. To be honest, before meeting my husband, I didn't know Colombians had accents. Now, I'm really good now at picking out a Paisa accent thanks in part to Magnolia, Rene Higuita's girlfriend on the show. I also realized how many Colombian colloquialisms I've learned in the past few years. If I didn't know them, I don't think I would have followed the show as well as I did.

The best part was during the commercial breaks when my husband would explain different things to me that I didn't know, but that all Colombians who watch this show would. Here are some of the things I learned. 

1. Throughout the show, they are constantly playing this song. I better learn it because I think it's the equivalent to Sweet Caroline for us Bostonians. SI SI COLOMBIA, SI SI CARIBE!!

2. In 1993, Diego Maradona was retired from playing professional soccer, and Colombia was doing well in the qualifying round for the 1994 World Cup that was going to be held in the United States. Of course, the press wanted to know what Maradona thought about Colombia's chances against Argentina in their World Cup qualifying match, and this is what Maradona said  prior to the game in which Colombia beat Argentina 5-0 in Argentina.

Here are the highlights from that game.

And here is Maradona applauding Colombia.

2. Rene Higuita was so much fun to watch on the show, and he was just as entertaining in real life. He is most for for being "El Loco". In a friendly game against England in 1995 in Wembley Stadium, he kicked the ball in such a way that he looked like a scorpion.

3. One day, my husband told me that I needed to see a documentary called "Los Dos Escobares". I watched it on Netflix and definitely shed a few tears. The story tells of the infamous Pablo Escobar and the soccer player Andres Escobar who was part of the national team during its glory days.

Pablo Escobar and others like him were fans of the Colombian teams, and they had influence over how the teams were managed because of the money they invested to build up the teams. Andres Escobar was a player who played for Colombia's national team and Atletico Nacional, one of the teams of Medellin. There were high hopes that Colombia would do well in the 1994 World Cup. However, when Andres Escobar marked a goal against his own team by accident, it dashed all hopes of Colombia advancing to the next round. Many drug lords had placed bets on that game, and many of them lost money because Colombia who was favored to win against the United States lost the crucial game.

After the game, Andres went back to Colombia, and on the night of July 2nd, he was shot dead after an incident in the parking lot of a night club in Medellin. It is widely believed that his death was related to the auto-goal.

It is tragic, and many Colombians still mourn his death. The show did not want to handle such a sensitive topic so it was left out of the show deliberately. I'm glad I watched the documentary so I could get a real picture of what happened.

5. Carlos "el Pibe" Valderrama really needs no explanation. His hair says it all. There is no one like him. First, he was the captain of the national team during the golden years. He is known for his necklaces and bracelets which he always wore. Also, back in the early days, he wore his socks really low. The actor that plays him in the show wore them the same way. Finally, he was also famous for saying "todo bien, todo bien."

On a final note, as a Spanish teacher, I am really glad to see programming that is entertaining while at the same time teaching me something about the culture. I hope that Unimas and/or Univision try to diversify their offerings to include great shows like La Seleccion.


While we were watching the show, the qualifying rounds for the 2014 World Cup were being played. It seemed like such a great time to have the show on the air because it helped remind Colombia of its glory days while at the same time getting the fans psyched for Brazil 2014. The Colombian national team hasn't qualified since the 1998 World Cup. This new generation of players have a good chance of bringing glory back to Colombia again.

Yesterday, FIFA published the groupings. One step closer to Brazil. Now, let's hope Brazil gets those stadiums done in time.