It isn’t right that how one dies carries more weight than how one lived. Almost 30 years after he was murdered for committing an own goal at WC 1994, the life of Andrès Escobar is portrayed in the Netflix fiction Goles en contra (English title is The Final Score).
About half of the series is about the dominance and depravity of the Colombian drug industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and the other half is about the characters who try to rise above it. Real-life Andrès Escobar (Juan Pablo Urrego) and his manager Francisco Maturana (John Alex Castillo) are almost saintly in their conduct, while fictional club president Leonor Aparicio (Patricia Tamayo) is ballsy but practical.
The 6-episode series is co-directed and written by Carlos Moreno, a very successful director who I suspect got tired of doing films about drug-trafficking. He directed the 3 more uplifting soccer episodes while Óscar Ruiz Navia dealt more with the drug culture.
In narco-fútbol, you can’t really separate the drugs from the game. Without the influx of the huge amounts of drug money, Colombian fútbol would not have advanced so quickly in that time period. For short explanations of narco-soccer, read the articles by Sarah Krupp and Jamie Allen.
The series is very well-directed with excellent performances. Some of the actors are “natural” in that they won their roles through a massive soccer tryout and acting auditions. Andrés Mauricio Pizarro is particularly good as cheerful and brave goalkeeper Rene Higuita. Brian Velez is excellent as the fictional footballer Quique, who falls into the clutches of the menacing gang leader and gun-runner Jhon Jairo (Hector Mejia), who is fashioned after the infamous Popeye, Pablo Escobar’s hitman.
It is interesting to note that Juan Pablo Urrego, who plays the saintly Andrès Escobar, also portrayed hitman Popeye in the series Alias J.J.
An interesting fact I learned from the series was that, after winning the Copa Libertadores, Nacional manager Francisco Maturana also coached the Colombia National Team at the same time. In the series, he tells the club players that he is going to leverage them for the NT. The series portrays Maturana as a caring man manager as well as an innovative tactician. Maturana has coached all over the world and as of this review, he represents CONMEBOL on the IFAB Football Advisory Panel.
Goles en contra is useful as a barometer of a period in history that most Colombians want to forget, but that many streaming companies want to exploit. The family of Andrès Escobar was not consulted in creating the series. The first episode delves into a painkiller addiction that he eventually overcomes through proper orthotics. Is that true? Who knows, because as Moreno says, everything is fiction.
I only watched this series because my interest in narco-soccer was piqued by the referee documentary Jugada Peligrosa. Coming from that perspective, it was the fictional part of Moreno’s series that caused me to rate his work a little lower. While Goles en contra is somewhat entertaining, it bothered me that so much fact was combined with fiction and then passed off entirely as fiction. If you are going to do that, maybe it is better to make up the entire story with differently named characters, so that real people like the family of Andrès Escobar are not exploited.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6
- Released: 2022-11-02 (Netflix)
- English title is The Final Score
- Spanish title is Goles en contra (literally, “Goals Against”)
- In Spanish with English sub-titles
- I watched this on Netflix
- Series is 5 hours 11 minutes over 6 episodes
- Directors: Carlos Moreno (episodes 1,2,6) , Óscar Ruiz Navia (episodes 3,4,5)
- Stars: Juan Pablo Urrego (Andrès) , John Alex Castillo (Maturana)
- Watch the Trailer in Spanish
- Netflix Website