Higuita_Scorpion

‘La Seleccion’ – or ‘the national team’ – is the story of Colombia’s four greatest players and how they made their names in the 80s and 90s.

You may well remember the likes of goalkeeper Rene Higuita – famous for his ‘scorpion kick’ – and Carlos Valderrama, the silky midfielder with the bouffant blond afro hairdo.

There was also Freddy Rincon, probably their most successful club player at the time, and of course Newcastle’s wild-man Faustino Asprilla.

All four were larger-than-life (see later for detail on run-ins with the law), and are still a bit loco even though they’re well into middle age.

But this soap is mostly about football. On the pitch they took Colombia to three consecutive World Cups from 1990-1998, some feat considering they had only once qualified before.

There was the sublime – the dramatic 1-1 draw with West Germany that took them to the second round for the first time at Italia ’90 – and the ridiculous, as Higuita showed off his famous scorpion kick against England.

There was also tragedy, when team-mate Andres Escobar was murdered after scoring the own-goal that saw them crash out of USA ’94.

This (unsubtitled) clip shows a half-time row between Higuita and captain Valderrama, who tells his team-mate to tone down the flashy stuff and concentrate on keeping goal.

Higuita loses his temper, insistnig he can only play one way, as a sweeper. The coaching staff intervenes before Valderrama rips off his captain’s armband, tosses it in the general direction of Higuita as a ‘gift’, before storming off in a huff.

It’s dramatic stuff, and you can see why it is so popular in Colombia. Although, with the exception of Paul Gascoigne, it’s hard to see England’s players of that time offering up quite as much entertainment value.