Gina Miller sat down with FCD head coach Oscar Pareja for the final of a three-part series in an exclusive interview about growing up in Colombia, Pablo Escobar and his professional career.
Soccer is in Oscar Pareja’s blood. So is his pride for his birthplace, Medellin, Colombia.
“Colombia, a beautiful country filled by 50 million beautiful persons,” Oscar says.
The FC Dallas head coach beams when he describes Colombia’s beauty and playing soccer for Independiente Medellin in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
“It was the club that made me a man,” he told me.
It was also during that time, in 1991, when Oscar and his six of his DIM teammates received an invitation they couldn’t refuse: a request to visit Pablo Escobar and his fellow ‘prisoners’ at the drug czar’s infamous prison, La Cathedral that overlooked the city of Medellin.
Except for a few print interviews, Oscar doesn’t discuss the visit much. He’s someone who would much rather focus on soccer. But he understands the constant interest in Escobar and that era in Colombia’s history. The Netflix series Narcos has only increased it.
When we sat down to conduct the interview in February, Oscar readily addressed the violence Colombia experienced during that era. But he also pointed out that as a soccer players, in a soccer-obsessed country, he had a duty.
“It was a time in our society when we were numb,” the 47-year old said.
“We were soccer players that represent a club that represent a community in the middle of this storm.”
That’s the sense of responsibility Oscar felt: to help calm the storm.
And now, as he discusses that violent time and describes Colombia, Oscar feels another sense of duty: to honor the country that made him who he is today.
“My country is coming from some difficult years,” he admits. “We showed our resilience and the way we can overcome problems and difficulty. Now we can show a brighter country. That’s my country.”