It was 2001. Oscar Cordoba He says he was at his house in San Isidro when he went out on the balcony because he heard that children were playing soccer in a neighbor's patio and they mentioned his name. When he saw them and realized the reason, he admits having had one of the most satisfying moments in his career. "They were fighting to see who was Oscar Córdoba, the goalkeeper of Mouth. It really was a situation that filled me with pride. That two children from a country that is not mine, without knowing me or knowing that I lived there, because almost none of the neighbors was aware, they disputed being my person was very special. It is those small moments that make you realize what you have achieved. I have really been very lucky with the recognition of the people of Boca ", admits the goalkeeper in a chat with Infobae.
19 years have passed since he left Boca, but the respect and affection of the Xeneize fan remain as valid as in that era of glory, despite the fact that he was not one of the most extroverted references on the squad. The Colombian, at 50 years old, is still as cautious and sparing as before, but he does not need to go too far to be clear in his concepts. Without exaggerating or confronting, without demeaning others … With the same sobriety and efficiency that he showed in the arch. In Boca (97-01), in the Colombia National Team (93-06) and many other clubs, six in their country and three in Europe (Peruggia, Besiktas and Ankaraspor). "My style on the court has been the same as outside," he summarizes from his home in Bogotá.
Despite the fact that two years he was chosen the top archer in America and once the second best in the world (2001), although he won six national championships (three with Boca, two with Besiktas and one with América de Cali), two Copa Libertadores (2000 and 2001 with Boca), one Intercontinental (2000) and one Copa América (2001), Córdoba could not avoid the highs and lows of a long career at the highest level and this note will describe the learning he had in each of them. The first blow he received when he was emerging in big football, at just 22 years old: they scored seven goals in one game playing for Millionaires. “It was my first season as a consolidated starter and being in that 7-3 was difficult, almost a karma… But you learn from everything. Especially of the goals. Each one teaches you. It helps you to correct what you did wrong or not so well, although sometimes it is the merit of the striker. And to know back then that I was not invincible, that I still had a long way to go, ”he analyzes. Not so much left for his big rematch. A year later, coach Pacho Maturana would summon him, at just 23 years old, for the National Team and would have his great challenge in the World Cup Qualifying, replacing no less than an idol, René Higuita.
– I take you to one of the highs of your career, that not everyone remembers that you were. Let's go to September 5, 1993. Does the date ring a bell for you, right?
-Yeah right. 5-0 to Argentina.
-Some believe that Higuita was the archer at the Monumental. And everyone remembers Valderrama, Tino Asprilla, Tren Valencia and Freddy Rincón, but few who value that you did a couple of covers with the 0-0 match against Batistuta.
– Sometimes it is like that. They remember me in that 3-7 of 92 and in 5-0 they remember Goyco. Many times the life of the archer is like this. I'm already used to it. I did my thing in that match and I don't have much more to say.
-What did that day mean? You were young, I imagine it helped you in confidence.
-Yes, I was very young and it meant opening up for people to see me as an important player in the national team. It was a momentous match, which all Colombians fondly remember (he thinks), although some not so much …
-Why not so much? Because of what happened next?
-Of course, they refer to that party as the beginning of the end of that generation. Unfortunately later came the World Cup, which was not what was expected, a quick elimination that generated a great disappointment in many people.
-Many say that, after that 5-0, the Colombian team was enlarged. Do you feel that it was like that, that perhaps they played against that thrashing of Argentina?
-Everyone talks about an enlargement. But I don't see it that way. Pacho (Maturana) was very sincere when he analyzed what happened: we did not find the peak of performance in the World Cup, we had it before, in the Playoffs. Those things usually happen in sports, only that time we paid very dearly.
-The expectation was so great that even personalities outside Colombia gave them as candidates. Even Pelé said that Colombia would be the champion.
-Yes, I remember. One tried to abstract from everything that is said, but it was difficult, because we beat everyone we faced. That wave of success played us against and we had a performance below what we all expected.
The debacle occurred with the defeat against the United States. How was the previous moment in which Bolillo Gómez confessed that he and his brother had been threatened with death, if Barabás was playing that game?
-It was in the technical talk before the game that the coach told us what had happened. It surprised and stressed us all. We tried to focus, but during the match we couldn't forget what happened. It was something atypical and really serious, that nobody had to face in such an instance.
– Did you know or intuit who had made the threat? Were the narcos as they are spoken? More than anything for the fear that it would materialize …
-We didn't know who it was. They just left an anonymous message on the answering machine on the phone. But it did harm us. We didn't really play that game.
-How do you remember it?
-Like a confusing game. Nothing came out, I think because of the stress we had. We had performance even below how low we were coming.
-It was after that game that they asked you what it felt like to be the worst goalkeeper in the world?
-No, it was after playing the third game, against Switzerland. They asked me for a note and they asked me that. I didn't take it wrong. The journalist has the right to ask what he wants and I answer what I want.
-And what did you answer him?
-I told him that if he had seen it, it was fine, that things had not gone well for us. None of us.
"Thank goodness it was you and not Chilavert." Otherwise, the journalist would still be running.
-(Serie). Can be. We are different.
-Against the United States the goal is scored against Andrés Escobar and a few days later, on his return to Colombia, your partner is assassinated, they say because of a discussion about that sports accident. Do you feel that was why? And if so, did you ever think that threats could come true?
– For me it was not for that, I feel that the topic was more related to social intolerance. As far as I know the author was a person who was not in his right mind and had taken alcohol. He rebuked Andrés, he responded by making him look bad and thus caused the fatal outcome.
-But you were in custody in Cali when you returned from the World Cup, right?
-Yes, I arrived two weeks after the World Cup, after the tragedy and I had a bodyguard for a month and a half.
– Were you afraid that the same thing could happen to you as to Andrés?
-No, I was never afraid. I didn't think the same thing could happen to me as to Andrés. I always knew that my friend's had nothing to do with the World Cup. The custody decision was made by the government, more than anything to avoid any confrontation with the people, discussions and that kind of situation, not so much because an attack could take place.
-Is it true that they had made you a little song blaming you for the murder of Andrés that said "there he is, that is, Andrés's killer"?
-Yes, they sang it to me on the fields where I was going to play with América de Cali, clearly looking to get me out of my box. I took it as part of folklore.
"But didn't it hurt?"
-Yes, the fact of being a friend, remembering it, being able to think that I had some responsibility, hit me a little. But he understood right away that it was part of the game, of a rival strategy so that he wasn't focused on the game.
-After four years in Cali, you arrive in Boca. I imagine that is the great moment of your career, the peak of those highs that we were talking about, right?
-Yes, I also had five very good years at Besiktas, but it is true that Boca is strong and I was marked by that.
-You arrived when Maradona was still there. How was that meeting?
-Diego was the person who received me, who gave me his friendship, the first who was very attentive to what my adaptation would be. He put himself to order and even offered to take his Ferrari Testarosa to me in one of the first training sessions in which I stared at the car in the parking lot.
-And you took it?
-No, I said no. If I hit her, I would have to spend all my wages from the years in Europe to pay for such a car (laughs).
-In 2001 you won the Libertadores with Boca and the Copa América with Colombia without receiving a goal. Was that your best year?
-No, my best year was 2000. We were champions of the Libertadores and the Intercontinental. I could get the thorn out of losing the final against River in 1996 and I ended up being a figure in the final, tackling two penalties. It was another level.
– Surely you transferred that level and confidence to 2001, right?
–If true. It was like a continuity. Winning another Libertadores and achieving the Copa América without receiving goals is very important. But emotionally there is no comparison with 2000. Especially for what it meant, for what I felt. I had lost a final, with that mistake in the final against River … Winning that trophy was feeling at peace with myself.
-For some you are the best goalkeeper in the history of Colombia. And for some you stayed in the shadow of Higuita, perhaps for not having that mane, his outgoing personality or doing the Scorpio at Wembley … What do you think?
-The best is Pedro Antonio Zape (NdeR: he played 580 games between 1966 and 1988), the goalkeeper we all wanted to imitate. We all learned from him. He was the one who transmitted the information and left a legacy.
-It is difficult to compare, but what you won was not achieved by anyone.
-Yes, but sometimes it happens that being the best you do not reach the teams at the ideal time to achieve objectives. You can be the best goalkeeper, but if you do not have the best defenders or your team does not score goals, the successes dreamed of do not come.
-It sure is that you had a very different style from Higuita, despite having grown in his shadow.
-Yes, when I arrived at Atlético Nacional (NdeR: in 1988) it was to learn from René. But I quickly realized that I didn't have the qualities to copy his style. René was reading the game, he was a libero goalkeeper, which is what was needed at that time. He even came out of the area and was able to knock down a wall. Or go with the ball to the middle of the court. In 1990! It was an advance. But I couldn't do that, I knew I had to be one more area archer. And I was lucky to be managed by Maturana in Nacional and know what he wanted from the goalkeeper. So, when I got to the National Team in '93, I took a minimal advantage from two great colleagues like (Faryd) Mondragón and (Miguel) Calero, who had not been with Pacho. It was a very close fight where you couldn't sneeze because you lost your job. I adapted quickly and, before René's injury, I responded and kept the job.
-But was it a hot iron to grab the bow after Higuita?
-No, I never took it that way. I had been to Nacional, which had the national team base and I never felt that way. It happened naturally.
-What do you feel made you special? Your physical capacity, mentality, your mettle, professionalism? If you had to choose a feature.
– I was not spectacular, like Navarro Montoya or Gatti, to give two examples. I was more a reading goalkeeper, who intervened when he had to, who wanted to give security and balance to the teams.
-The goalkeeper lives with fear all the time, to be wrong, because he knows that if he makes a mistake, it is a goal. What was it like in your case?
-I really, the only ones who were afraid was the wind or finding a court in poor condition. That the ball moved or jumped badly, that made me look ridiculous, especially since I asked for the ball … I remember that when I left the court and saw some of those things, I became more nervous and increased my precautions. That was my fear. The rest he handled well.
-What must an archer have to remain in history, how did it happen to you?
-Uff, very difficult. I feel that soccer was preparing me for the different moments of life, it was a learning process. More than anything the key was how to take the difficult moments. And I think the maturity that I was acquiring helped me. And, of course, it was important to the teams I came to, how I adapted.
-Which archer do you feel identified with today?
-With Ter Stegen, the Barsa goalkeeper. Neither better nor worse than others, different.
-I'm going back to Boca. What was special about that Bianchi team?
-That we all knew and wanted the same. We all had it very clear.
-But is that special? Shouldn't that be common to almost all teams?
-Look, there are times when the individual part prevails over the collective and thus the teams break. In Boca, nobody ever felt that they were above the team.
"Despite the fact that the locker room was said to be divided?"
-Everyone talks about it, I don't know where it came from, but I never saw a broken Mouth. That there were differences, without a doubt. We were all different human beings, but we were always together. All we achieved was through union.
-Do you have any experience or anecdote that reflects what that group was?
-The high point, which demonstrated the commitment that this team had, was seen in the semifinal with Palmeiras in 2001, with that shirt and songs against the managers and Salvestrini (NdeR: in the dressing room in San Pablo, due to a salary dispute, the players sang against the Board of Directors and punctually against the treasurer, while wearing t-shirts that said "shut up and pay"). That problem was the moment of greatest tension and the group coped together, united.
-The last one: in these months there was a debate comparing that Boca de Bianchi with the River de Gallardo. Do you feel that they are comparable in the game, in the domain they generated, in the achievements, in the intangibles?
-River plays differently from Boca. We were more precise and we beat great rivals. River has other characteristics. But we were world champions. River was it?
-Then you can't start comparing yourself yet.
Oscar Córdoba. Of few words, but forceful. Like when he cut.
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