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The legacy of Rene Higuita

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Tim Vickery | 11:09 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

Rene has walked away. And like the empty sidewalks in the old Four Tops hit, football is not the same. The game will miss Rene Higuita.

The eccentric Colombian keeper bid farewell with an exhibition match last week.

Of course, he had to produce the famous 'scorpion' save one last time. But for all its novelty value, the 'scorpion' is not the reason for Higuita's importance. Nor, in the final analysis, are the goals he scored. His free-kicks and penalties were no circus act, and they inspired a line of goalscoring South American goalkeepers.

No, there is a better reason for Higuita to be remembered. He was years ahead of his time.

Higuita performs the 'scorpion' saveHiguita performs his 'scorpion' save for the final time

He was a pioneer when it came to his skill with the ball at his feet and in his willingness to take responsibility for situations 40 metres from goal. Before the change in the back pass rule obliged keepers to develop these abilities, he was already showing that a team is made up of 11 footballers, not of 10 players and a goalkeeper.

This had important tactical ramifications, helping forge the style of the Colombia team of the late '80s and early '90s.

With Higuita behind them, the defensive line could push higher up the field, pressing the opposition to win the ball back. Then, when in possession, they were a more compact unit, with lots of options for their trademark short passing.

It was a South American twist on some of the ideas of the great Holland side of 1974.

Colombia coach Francisco Maturana acknowledged the debt and stressed the importance of his goalkeeper to the system.

Higuita, he wrote shortly before the 1990 World Cup, "gives us something no one else has, and we take full advantage. With Rene as sweeper, we have 11 outfield players.... Jan Jongbloed, the Holland keeper in the 1974 World Cup, also operated as a sweeper. With a difference. The Dutchman came out just to boot the ball into the stands. Higuita can do much more."

In the event, Maturana probably wished Higuita had blasted the ball into Row Y.

In the second-round game against Cameroon, just as the Colombian TV commentator was describing Higuita as "an exceptional sweeper", wily Roger Milla robbed him outside his area and raced away to score what proved to be the decisive goal.

This, though, was the price Colombia paid for their style of play. Higuita made no effort to hide his error, seemed strong enough to live with it, and the whole thing could be written off as experience on the way to USA 94.

For me, it is one of the big 'what ifs' of football history. What might have happened had Rene Higuita been able to play in that World Cup 16 years ago?

Placed among the pre-tournament favourites, Colombia's campaign quickly blew up in tears and tragedy - real tragedy, with centre back Andres Escobar murdered in Medellin a few days after their first-round elimination.

It's easy to forget what a good side Colombia were.

They went into USA 94 on a run of one defeat in 34 games, including a 5-0 win in Buenos Aires, the first time Argentina had ever lost a World Cup qualifier at home.

The Colombia team that went to USA 94 had lots of merits - but did not have its goalkeeper. Higuita was in jail - harshly, as the authorities now admit.

He had been called in to act as an intermediary in a kidnapping case. Receiving money for his actions was against the rules.

Colombia were not the same side without him. Young replacement Oscar Cordoba was a competent shot stopper. He had done well in Buenos Aires. But on that occasion, Argentina were doing the pressing.

The World Cup debut against Romania was very different. Hagi and co were the counter-attacking specialists. Colombia played some beautiful football, but this was a game where they needed the keeper to play his sweeper's role. Cordoba couldn't. His decision making was exposed, and Romania won 3-1.

And if Colombia had missed Higuita from a technical point of view, now they really needed him from a psychological perspective.

Andres Escobar scores an own goalAndres Escobar scores the own goal which went on to cost him his life

All the pressure was on the second game against the USA. The Colombia team had been receiving death threats since before Italia 90. But now, with the spotlight on them, the stakes were so much higher.

Colombia had become 'Locombia' - the crazy country.

Drug cartels were running amok, politicians, judges and journalists were routinely assassinated. The death threats reaching the national team were taken very seriously. The dressing room was in panic. The team were a nervous wreck.

Faustino Asprilla later confessed that during the national anthems he was glancing round the stadium wondering where the shot was going to come from. In no state to play a World Cup match, they lost again.

Higuita might have made a difference. He seemed nerveless. His antics had traditionally filled his team-mates with confidence.

Against England at Wembley in 1988, he dribbled round Gary Lineker, "as if it was a park game back home," recalled Maturana. "And if Higuita could play his normal, natural game, then the others had to follow his example. And we started playing our football."

His team were well worth their 1-1 draw. This, for them, was a huge occasion, their first big trip to Europe. Holding England at Wembley was seen in Colombia as the day their football came of age.

Their equaliser that night was scored by Andres Escobar. Six years later, his own goal against the USA ended up costing him his life. It's a mark of the importance of Higuita that it is conceivable that events would have take a different turn had he been around.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag:

These transfers in Brazilian football - I'm really interested to find out how they are being funded. It's something that's been on my mind for a while, and even more so now Robinho is at Santos.

Apparently they are paying all his wages and bonuses? How is this possible? Are they relying on improved gates from when he plays or have sponsors/investors stepped in to fund the loan?

I've been told this is how it happened when Corinthians signed Ronaldo. With Vagner Love, Roberto Carlos and Adriano all now playing in Brazil, as well as Botafogo signing Abreu it seems like there must be a lot more money in the league. Is that the case?

Russell Slater

I believe almost all of the money will come from sponsors, as is the case with Adriano, Fred and a few others. Ronaldo is not so much an employee of Corinthians, more a partner who gets a cut of merchandise sales in addition to his basic wage, funded by sponsors.

The big trend here, I think, is the professionalisation of marketing departments, which, together with the size of the internal market and the strength of the Brazilian currency, is making these deals viable.

There are some players earning big money here now, although the drift to Europe shows no sign of stopping. So it would be unwise to go overboard.

As Sao Paulo director Marco Aurelio Cunha says, the return moves are "a short term strategy [ie to gain visibility in the run up to the World Cup], or an option at the end of a career."

As regards the signing by Botafogo of the Uruguayan Abreu, this highlights another growing trend.

In general, first division wages in Brazil are considerably higher than elsewhere in the continent. As Brazil starts to open up to its neighbours, we're seeing more players from the rest of South America come in.

There are a few high profile Argentines in Brazil - but no high profile Brazilians in Argentina.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Good article Tim, the only thing i knew Rene for was for the scorpion kick, and as a result never really held him in a high regard as a goalkeeper!! Its interesting to hear a bit about his career, and how important he was to the Colombians!! He must of played alot of times for Colombia if he was running round Lineker in 88?

  • Comment number 2.

    lovely blog Tim, a good insight into a bit of south american history

  • Comment number 3.

    Higuita was far from the best, but was easily the funniest keeper to watch. I wish there were more like him.

  • Comment number 4.

    Excellent article Tim, as per usual. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the influence Higuita had on the team as a whole and that you are debunking the myth that he was simply a stereotypical 'el loco' South American goalkeeper.

    One question though, would you view Chilavert of Paraguay as having been a similarly inspiring figure for his country and how do you view his legacy, if indeed he has one?

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog Tim and as an Englishman living in Colombia who saw Sir Rene in a 5-a-side game (Colombia veterans vs Argentina veterans) last year I think you have given him a worthy tribute. To you Tim, but especially to Rene, I hope all of you will join me in raising your glass. To Rene Higuita - salut!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Great atticle about a great player !!!

    Higuita was a coaches nightmare. Not knowing what he would do next, whether it be a piece of genius skill or losing the ball 35 yards from goal (Roger Milla).

    He was however brilliant for the team. He was their hero, their tallisman, the person that could take all the limelight from them so they could just concentrate on playing - and Columbia were a very good team around this time. Carlos Valderamma (The Hair) & Freddy Rincon were in the same team and they could really play !!!

    He was also brilliant for the fans. I remember every time I watched Columbia play, I hoped he would get the ball and do something with it - do a little dribble or lose it. He was exciting to watch and that is what a fan wants.

    When he did the Scorpion kick against England I just could not believe my eyes. It was amazing !!! He will always be remembered for that moment of genius, but you are right Tim, he was a good goalkeeper as well.

    I wish there were more goalkeepers like him - it make the game better to watch. Just don't let chelsea sign any of them - my nerves wouldn't be able to take it.

  • Comment number 7.

    Enjoyed this article... great moment in football history when Higuita performed that at Wembley.. just a shame the game had been stopped already..

    I have always thought that keepers should take penalty kicks.. with the exception of a few they must be the cleanest strikers of the ball on the park.. and are usually accurate too.. Can you imagine Paul Robinson or Akinfeev taking penalties?? I dont think many would want to put their body in the way of them striking from 12 yards..

    I didnt know Higuita was so important to the team either.. I personally think a World Cup has to go back to the USA soon.. would add some needed glamour to it after teh functional settings of Germnay and Japan...

  • Comment number 8.

    Higuita was huge for Atlético Nacional de Medellín, helping them win the 1989 Copa Libertadores, first time for a Colombian side to do it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great blog Tim.
    That early 90s Colombian side was a class act. Full of pace and power from the likes of Asprilla and Rincon, and quite skilful, led by Valderrama.
    Interesting how Higuita galvanised the whole team. A GK with good footwork does make a difference. You think about Rogerio Ceni at his prime, he started attacks for São Paulo. Perfect distribution. That's a plus and hail to Higuita for starting that.
    On another note, I've also thought of him as a dodgy shot-stopper, quite short in height, like the typical dodgy South American keeper.
    I don't really trust short keepers.

  • Comment number 10.

    I was at the game at Wembley when he performed the scorpian kick. Firstly I didn't realise it was that long ago, I would of been 7 at the time and it was my first trip to Wembley with my dad. I remember the ball in the air (Darren Anderton kicked it I think??) and watching it come down and then suddenly the goalkeeper did some crasy action with his body. my dad didn't see it and it wasn't till I got home that I saw what he actually did-a little claim to fame for myself me thinks!! Good article as always tim!Always my favourite read on the website!

  • Comment number 11.

    Ahh Rene. They don't make them like they used to! It's a shame that there really aren't many characters like this guy around any more. European football is too professional these days for eccentrics like Higuita to be seen in the highest leagues which means we miss out on a lot of entertainment!
    A genuine legend who will be remembered for the right reasons despite the jail time and (alleged?) drug charges.
    Oh and he was only 5ft 9" - an absolute midget in 'keeper terms!

  • Comment number 12.

    If you're looking for eccentricity look no forward than Manuel Almunia. He may be derided but Arsenal’s style is similar and he is a wonderful sweeper – it’s just a shame most people watch MOTD and don’t see his full contribution. That’s why Arsenal can’t just buy a Brad Freidel or similar...

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    was a great team back then that i enjoyed watching, with asprilla, valderrama and rincon among others

  • Comment number 15.

    Pioneer? There was a guy called Lev Yashin doing the exact same thing over 15 years before Higuita was even born.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    yes, but there were a huge portion of us just waiting for the roger milla moment- (you kind of knew it would happen sooner or later) and when it did we all thought the lessons we were taught were the correct ones...though he was still, of course, incredibly talented and a trail blazer and quite enteraining to watch...

  • Comment number 18.

    #12 Im sorry but I find that comment a bit ridiculous..

    A blog on Higuita and you compare him in style to Almunia who is at best a reserve goalie or first choice for a much lower team.. Granted I dont watch all Arsenal games but I have never witnessed him play as a deep lying sweeper.. receiving the occasional pass back from an under pressure defender and distributing it to another defender wouldnt constitute this..

    Sorry don't like being negative as their are too many on this site who come on only for that but I find your connection a bit mad..

  • Comment number 19.

    I was lucky enough to see a few games at Italia 90, one of which was Colombia v West Germany at the San Siro. It was a cracking game that was memorable for a number of reasons. Valderrama leaving the pitch on a stretcher a few minutes before half time (stretchers were rare sights then as they were only used when a player was badly injured) only for him to return for the second half. Littbarski appearing to win the game in the final minute to mass German rejoicing - it felt as if 90% of the crowd were German fans, many having come over the border for the day. The stadium falling silent when the Colombians equalised deep into injury time.
    My best memory however is of Higuita toying with Rudi Voller throughout the match. Whenever Higuita had the ball at his feet he would dribble it towards Voller inviting him to try and dispossess him. Voller took the bait and proceeded to get more and more would up as Higuita either picked the ball up at the last second or dribbled around him. You could almost see the steam coming out of Rudi’s ears.
    I don’t know if teams had identified Voller as having a suspect temperament as he was sent off in Germany’s next game along with Frank Rijkaard after an altercation between them.
    Higuita was a real entertainer and a good keeper and I certainly enjoyed watching him play.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great to read about Rene Higuita, a player who's also fascinated me and one whom has certainly made his mark on the global game.

    It’s a real shame we never got to see him play in a major European league. I’d like to know more about his career at club level too.

    Tim, on a separate subject, I’d be interested to read your views on how you feel the Brazilian championship now compares with the major European leagues and, how do you see this changing over the next five/ten years? I am of the opinion that the Brazilian domestic game is generally undervalued because of the lack of coverage (particularly in the UK). Would you agree with this?

    On the subject of finance within Brazilian football, it is also worth noting that Brazilian clubs are also beginning to once again pay transfer fees between each other. (Obina from Flamengo – Atletico-MG being a recent example).

  • Comment number 21.

    Yes, an entertaining player that was missed in '94 and will be missed in the future.

    I travelled to the US to follow Colombia that year, having agreed with a Colombian colleague that I would do so even if England did not make it. Rather poor judgement on my part. What could go wrong, especially after Pele tipped Colombia to win the tournament after that 5-0 win in Argentina?

    Well, travel from LA airport to our hotel was interrupted by a certain OJ Simpson, fleeing in his white Ford Bronco from that "V" of cops in cars. The game against Romania was a disaster. The game against the US was a disaster - on the pitch and having to listen to comments like this from the home crowd, "How come we aren't attacking more in the second half?" - "Bud, they change ends at half time."

    Colombia were out of the tournament but we decided to travel to San Francisco for the final game. We asked our hotel in LA to recommend a hotel for us in San Francisco and they made a booking for us and managed to get a deal on a suite. Happy days.

    On arrival we found out that they had checked us into a gay hotel and our room had a Tarzan theme. It was very nice, I quite like a bit of Leopard print, but my Colombian friends and I were a little more comfortable when we transferred to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

    Finally, I just like to add Tim that you correctly point out all of the horrendous problems facing the Colombian team that were particularly acute at that time. I'd just add that, inspite of that, all the Colombians I met were great fun and determined to have a good time.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great article. Every time I reminisce about the 1990 World Cup, the image of the legendary Higuita approaching the midfield with the ball comes to mind. Yes, he was truly ahead of his time. I always feel if you have a goalkeeper with so much confidence and flamboyance it would help the rest of the team's morale.

    When I heard he was doing a bid I thought this was a man with street credibility. I did not know the whole story. Now that you have enlightened me, I realise he has credibility and I am more aware of his overall importance not just to the Colombian game, but the world game.

    The game will miss the legendary Rene Higuita but we will remember him. Forever.

  • Comment number 23.

    10. At 2:00pm on 01 Feb 2010, Daniel Mackay wrote:
    I was at the game at Wembley when he performed the scorpian kick. Firstly I didn't realise it was that long ago, I would of been 7 at the time and it was my first trip to Wembley with my dad.


    Tim only mentions the 1988 match at Wembley when he dribbled round Lineker. The scorpion kick was in another friendly in 1995 so it wasn't as far back as that.

  • Comment number 24.

    20 - Alexandre Kalil, the great president of Clube Atletico Mineiro, was asked what if Obina ends up being a bad signing. His answer was "I didn't spend anything"

    Obina was bought by 4 banks, not by Atletico.

    Atletico bought(and paid a fee) for the paraguayan Julio Cesar Caceres, though.

  • Comment number 25.

    Would love to see more goalkeepers like him playing today (but not for my team) - possibly one of the most entertaining players of all time, and football is an entertainment business.

    Don't remember him being quite as good as you make out but great to watch anyway.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Tim. Good article again. I was wondering how you compared Chilavert to Higuita too? Chilavert was a huge figure for Paraguay, we were not the same team without him.

    Also, I was wondering if you had read or heard much about the Salvador Cabañas episode. Are you following it? It sounds like he's making a miraculous recovery.

  • Comment number 27.

    Higuita was a truly exceptional goalkeeper and went a long way in perpetuating the crazy goalkeeper stereotype. He was from an age when there seemed to be a glut of the eccentricity in that position (Ravelli, Grobbellar, Schumaker, Campos (him of the pink) and Rust to name a few). However, I think it's a myth to say that we lack such goalkeeping characters in the game in more recent times. Chilavert, Barthez and even Lehmann were outstanding goalkeepers whose eccentricity were an integral part of why they were at the top of their professions.

    In the words of Eaamonn Dunphy "Somewhere in there the grace of a ballet dancer joins with the strength of an SAS squaddie, the dignity of an ancient kind, the nerve of a bomb disposal officer [on being a goalkeeper!]"

  • Comment number 28.

    @ #18, Mikey:
    Last season and before that, Almunia was sweeping. In fact that's the reason why he bought him - decision-making, technique - and how other keepers at the club are taught. Granted Almunia is a bit hit and miss but now that you've read my comparison, I'll trust you'll watch the guy more closer and then you will understand Wenger's stance for such keepers that follow in the Higuita mold to more or less some degree of success.

  • Comment number 29.

    This guy will be primarily remembered more his mess-up against Cameroon and the grin on Roger Milla´s face as he danced around him to score the decisive goal.

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim I hope that me posting this video influenced your decision to do an article.

    Here it is for anyone who missed it

  • Comment number 31.

    No criticism here Tim A wonderful arquero player character idol in a great great Colombian team who played beautiful futbol.They never really showed itoutside the continent and probably lacked what Colombia have almost always lacked a top class center forward

  • Comment number 32.

    An interesting comment Tim brings up about what effect Rene Higuita may have had on Colombia's 1994 World Cup team. That was a wonderful team to watch play and Tim is right about the incredible pressures they were under from back home in Colombia. I lived in the Los Angeles area at the time and knew someone who worked in the hotel in Fullerton, California where Colombia stayed during the World Cup and they were daily getting death threats faxed to the hotel! That in fact is why midfielder Gabriel Gomez, the brother of then assistant coach Hernan Dario Gomez, was held out of the game against the US.

    Oscar Cordoba was a good goalkeeper but he was still green in 1994, and in 1996 too when an error of his gifted River Plate a goal in that year's Copa Libertadores Final against Cordoba's America de Cali. I can not recall what kind of form Higuita was in during 1993 before he was arrested in June of that year acting as the intermediary in a kidnapping case but he only played one friendly for Colombia in early 1993, missing several others played before his June arrest:

    With Cordoba in goal Colombia did do pretty well (semifinalists) at Copa America 1993 and very well in World Cup qualifying in 1993, capped off by that historic 5-0 win in Buenos Aires. But it is a good question to raise, wondering what effect an in form Higuita, with his leadership qualities, could have had for Colombia at USA 94?

    As for Jose Luis Chilavert, to me he had even greater effect on Paraguay's teams than Higuita did on Colombia's. With his size, personality and the giant bulldog on his shirt, Chilavert was as imposing a figure in goal as I have ever seen. Even more than Schmeichel and Kahn who were the two most imposing European goalies that I recall in over 35 years watching this great sport. I recall before Paraguay played Argentina in a World Cup qualifying game for France 98, Chilavert publicly said he would score a goal on a free kick against Argentina. I believe it was Roberto Bonano in goal for Argentina in that game and he was visibly shaking when Chilavert came up to take a free kick in that match and subsequently scored on him! Not only one of the game's great characters but from the early 90s to 2000 one of the very best goalkeepers in the world, and it's most intimidating too.

  • Comment number 33.

    In the end football is all about entertainment. That's what brings the fans to the stadium, thats what makes football more appealing than any other sport.

    You can get dragged into a laboured analysis about how good a player is compared to another, and argue merits or demerits unti you are blue in the face.

    In the end we only remember those players that really entertain us. Those are the ones we hold closest to our hearts because in the midst of the daily drudgery of our 9-5 jobs, they bring much needed laughter and entertainment.

    Hats of to you Rene. You were special and you will be dearly missed...and you were right Tim, he was miles ahead of his generation.

    I would love to see an England goalkeeper try something special too, something outrageous but then we take football too serious. Indeed we take life too serious...

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Tim,
    I'm currently travelling in S.America and was in Medellin for Rene's testimonial. The game itself was a funny affair, poor football, Rene trying his scorpion every 3 minutes, Valderrama and Asprilla trying to play properly, and the Nacional crowd booing the Medellin players, and Rene scored twice causing a huge fireworks party!
    However, we sat next to his faily in the North Stand, and they gave us a lovely insight to him, considering we were just gringos!
    He came under a lot of flak for his drug abuse and relationship with Pablo Escobar, but he seems a very humble man. Does a lot for charity and has Medellins interests deeply in his heart. Plays to this very day for the pure joy of football and will be missed in Colombia, the world even.

    Good news is though that his son played in the tournament and apparently he plays for a team in Colombia, and his dad has passed on the same footballing ideology he had, a fine footballer, average keeper!

  • Comment number 35.

    Fun article, Higuita was a player worth watching, And Colombia too. I remember Carlos Valderama being the first player I saw who was carried off on a stretcher only to appear a few minutes later!

  • Comment number 36.

    31- criticism is always welcome , moreno, as long as i can defend myself!

    i think that the 94 team, unlike 90, were OK for strikers - asprilla and valencia and co running amok in buenos aires.

    It's not been a historic strong point of colombian football, but they were reasonably well served in 94.

  • Comment number 37.

    yet another great read, it is the true mavericks that we remember the most fondly. Higuita, Gazza, Best, Socrates, Maradona are the ones kids copy and attempt to emulate. By definition not all can be mavericks but how many heskeys must we endure until we come across an asprilla/ginola?
    Love the segments on Talksport btw

  • Comment number 38.

    Once in a while, your articles rise above their usual competence (and insight into a foreign - to me, to us - society) and become memories that will be kept for a long time.

    I thought Higuita was just El Loco, emphasis on the second word. I had no idea he was this important. Thank you so much! :-)

    PS: Just how much, in numbers, are players (ordinary ones, not the craques) paid in Brazil compared to Spanish South America and Europe (not just the big five countries, but places like Greece and Turkey too)

    Thanks for explaining Colombia @ USA94. I do realize you are speculating, but your speculations are worth more consideration than any truths uttered by, say, a corporate press office. (I think. I could be wrong.)

    PS: Given that South Americans have been gathering intelligence at the Africa Cup of Nations, has their been any media attention over there to CAF banning Togo? Or is it just "Oh wow, their football overlords are worse than ours!"

  • Comment number 39.

    @ 32, the keeper was german burgos, he also scored from inside his own half against burgos in a league game for Velez! He has warned burgos that he was going to score, and i think burgos knew it too.

  • Comment number 40.

    Tim, I know this is quite random. But were you, by any chance, walking the dog yesterday late afternoon (01 Feb), between 18h30-19h00 (Brazilian time), at Flamengo, more precisely at Rui Barbosa?
    I live there and I was heading back home from work and I could swear I saw someone that looked similar to you!
    Or it could have been just a weird coincidence!
    Anyways, to finish on a footballing note, I'll drop a line on the weekend's fantastic Fla-Flu derby. 5x3 to Flamengo after being 3-1 down at halftime. Absolutely extraordinary match, proper derby. Was there at Maracana and was blown away. Adriano and Vagner Love will form a partnership to be reckoned!

  • Comment number 41.

    Great blog as usual.

    The great man himself explained the circumstances of the Roger Miller debacle. He said with the team being 1 - 0 down and with time running out he decided to take a calculated risk. As with all risks sometimes you fail. But remember Columbia were already behind and the goal changed little in terms of the grat man's legacy or the outcome of the match. Adios Rene!

  • Comment number 42.

    Many thanks for a good insight into the importance of Rene Higuita for us. In 1990, although Rene might have cost us the World Cup we drew with Germany 1-1 (the only game Germany didn't win in 1990). The scorpion, his free kicks, his complete craziness when out of the box... In all a football legend. Thanks again.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thanks Tim for the insight. I always took Higuita for an Idiot when he gave away that goal to Roger Milla in 1990. You have modified the image i hold of him now.

  • Comment number 44.

    39-Sergio Lahaye: Thanks for the correction, you know I was debating in my mind if it was Bonano or Burgos who Chilavert had scored that free kick on. If I recall right those two would alternate at goalkeeper for both River Plate and Argentina but I always thought Burgos was the better of the two so I figured it was Bonano who was vicitmized by Chilavert. By the time Argentina made it to France in 1998 Carlos "Lechuga" Roa, that rarity, an Argentinian vegetarian, had won the starting keeper job.

    31- I do not see where you could claim Colombia's 94 team was lacking at forward, with Asprilla and Valencia as the starters and Valenciano and DeAvila off the bench they had plenty of offensive power, plus Freddy Rincon scored a lot of goals from midfield. Apart from the intense pressure put on that team from outside sources, I always thought the weakness on that Colombian squad was, like so many Pacho Maturana coached teams they attacked too much up the middle of the field and did not use the wings enough.

    Alexis Mendoza a reserve defender on that team is one of the assistants on Honduras current national team while starting midfielder Leonel Alvarez won the Colombian league with Medellin in his first season as a coach. Someone to watch for in the future.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great article as usual Tim. This might be of topic but was wondering if you could tell me why messi is having a torrid time playing for Argentina but for Barcelona he is on another level? Same thing happened to ronaldinho during his peak. Is it The pressure or just the barca sťyle can't be reproduced?

  • Comment number 46.

    40 - guilty as charged, I think. sounds like me and the dog!

    I'm glad colombia's game against germany in 1990 is being remembered. admittedly, the germans had already qualified for the second round, but they were bamboozled by the colombian passing for long periods. it was a hypnotic performance, that made the eventual world champions look ordinary.

  • Comment number 47.

    Good article Tim. Another goalkeeper that should be mentioned then is Jorge Campos from Mexico, as he played both as a goalkeeper and as a striker in the Mexican national team.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is very debatable whether 94 would have been a different story had Higuita played. At the time he was a fallen hero and most Colombians had bigger hopes for Oscar Cordoba. Cordoba was a rising star and I actually thought at the time he would go on to be our best internationally recognised player of all time. I genuinly expected him to have a great career in Europe, which sadly didnt happen. He was part of one of the greatest teams ever, the late 90s early 00s Boca Juniors side. But outside of S.America, not many knew / know about it so his status is barely known.

  • Comment number 49.

    So what I can gather from this piece is:

    a) Rene Higuita was a world class goalkeeping legend, single handedly responsible for his team's style of play & success prior to World Cup '94

    b) His mistake against Cameroon could've happened to anyone and was not in any way a hilarious consequence of stupidity, over-confidence & ridiculous decision making.................and, oh yeah, Colombia could've won the World Cup that year

    and c) If he'd been playing in '94 Colombia would've been a defensively solid, free flowing side without peer in the competition...........and, oh yeah, Escobar would still be alive (Bit insensitive that one Tim!)

    Higuita was certainly different, but you've made him sound like the influential playmaker of that Colombian team that they couldn't function without Tim! You remind me of an Argentinian talking about Diego, or a Brasilian talking about Pele. Full on blinkers! sure you're not Colombian?

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi guys, what's your opinion on this table of the top 10 Libertadores teams? I know it's off topic but i found it interesting...

  • Comment number 51.

    And in case anyone is interested, Salvador Cabañas seems to be making a miraculous recovery from the gunshot wound he received on Monday morning last week. Apparently he is conscious and the swelling of the brain has subsided.

  • Comment number 52.

    I saw Higuita play in a friendly tournament in Giants Stadium. The most memorable moment of the day was when Higuita dribbled along the touchline past half the opposition until he was finally taken out. It reminded me of Cannigia's run against Cameroun in 1990. A great cheer went up every time Higuita skipped past a rash challenge.
    Columbia were also a joy to watch at that time leading up to the 94 Cup.
    I saw their last friendly before the World Cup against my country Greece and they looked like going far in the tournament.

  • Comment number 53.

    wow, i really was not familiar with rene aside from his famous scorpion kick. thanks for the enlightenment tim.

  • Comment number 54.

    49 - nice to see , roberto, that you've tip toed into the debate with your customary even handed restraint!

    1 - the article merely re-enforces the coach's view that higuita's sweeper role brought significant tactical benefits.

    2 - of course what happened against camerron was a howler, and no way could colombia have won the world cup that year - the strikers came later.

    3 - i thk he was missed in 94, and it's interesting - and a bit frustrating - to think what might have happened had he been there. but no, i don't think they would have won.

  • Comment number 55.

    lol Tim,

    Sorry, I couldn't resist! haha

    Seriously, as a boy I thought Higuita was the best thing ever. Seeing a keeper taking the ball past players and into the opposition half was so exciting & obviously completely different. I was playing as a keeper in a schoolboy sunday league at around that time, & always had a few mad rushes out to the wings in every game, such was his affect on me (Just like I wanted to be Diego Maradona in '86!)

    As i've grown older though i've lost that admiration for him. To be honest, now I think keepers like him are an absolute liability, and actually think it was the eccentric side of his game that stopped him from truly being recognised as a great player & perhaps prevented a career in Europe etc.

    Definitely accept your view that he was ahead of his time in terms of being good with the ball at his feet, as all keepers need to be now, but it's no coincidence that you don't see keepers like him today - They're just a manager's nightmare!

    I know i'm a pain in the #@!*, but I really didn't realise he was held in such high regard down there in South America. I did find the tone of the piece a little surprising though, as he seems to have been remembered as being much more important to the game in South America as he'll be remembered by most Europeans?

  • Comment number 56.


    An informative and entertaining blog again as always. A bit of topic form this blog, but on last weekend's World Football Phone in you reccomended a book called The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt for any student's of the world game. On your advice, I went out and bought it and have to say its really a remarkable piece of work. The section on South America in particular is brilliant. The best £16 I've ever spent on a book. Highly recommended to anyone who reads this blog

  • Comment number 57.

    amen to that, ganesh. it's a wonderful book. deals with south america better than anything else i can think of in english - but seems to deal with everything wonderfully well. an extraordinary achievement.

  • Comment number 58.

    If your wanting a recommendation for a book about South American football, Alex Bellos' 'Futebol' is absolutely superb.

  • Comment number 59.

    tim, i heard you talk about welligton silva from fluminense and i tink you are mistaken him with another player. He is not big and strong, he is more a second striker with talent for score goals and a lot of ability to improve. here are some links of him:

  • Comment number 60.

    Great post about Higuita - he certainly was a character! His performance in the penalty shootout of the 1989 Copa Libertadores final was incredible.
    You mention that Colombia had become 'Locombia'. Take a look at the following article which, in the wake of the Salvador Cabañas shooting in Mexico, looks at the issue in a little more depth -

  • Comment number 61.

    Thanks Tim for this fantastic article!! Here is a video that I uploaded in youtube where we can see the importance of higuita's style. This video shows some of his interventions into midfield.

  • Comment number 62.

    Thanks Tim for this fantastic article!! Here is a video that I uploaded in youtube where we can see the importance of higuita's style. This video shows some of his interventions into midfield.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    I think Higuita's legacy will grow in significance - as football becomes increasingly owned by big business - and the industry less tolerant of foolhardy behavior.

    With his huge grin and ridiculous hairstyle he was a kind of unofficial ambassador for Colombia.

    I'm happy that Higuita is from Medellin ( and that we can talk about his his city in a positive light.

  • Comment number 65.

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  • Comment number 69.

    I hope that I could see him again play but I guess that only way I can see him play is through videos and photos as well as the previous reports. I'm a avid fan of soccer and I can say that he is really a legend.

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  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    What a hero - Iv just been watching his youtube videos!

    And yet again, another great article Tim!


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  • Comment number 73.

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  • Comment number 74.

    This video shows some of his interventions into midfield.
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  • Comment number 75.

    The South America is still producing exceptional goalkeepers, like Julio Cesar at Inter but not in abundance as it was years ago. I guess that the big money to be made is at other positions and youngsters know that. But every while a good goalkeeper will come along and hopefully with a personality because you need that, even in Europe (Oliver Kahn comes to my mind). Übersetzer

  • Comment number 76.

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  • Comment number 78.

    Since the 80s when Maradona was kicked abundantly in the World Cup the protection that the strikers get today have made them much more dangerous and as a consequence the goalkeepers can excel even more than in some older games. But the unique personalities like that of Rene Higuita or that of José Luis Chilavert seem to be lacking. Perhaps goalkeepers of today learn to behave more because of the business that the soccer has become. Or perhaps the big business soccer of today is less forgiving of excursions the like of Higuita and Chilavert. The soccer has lost a bit of a thrill because of that. Traduzioni

  • Comment number 79.

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  • Comment number 84.

    Italian football, but reports suggest that although Ronaldinho has been better this season that the last couple, he's still a long way short of the player he was at his best in Barcelona

  • Comment number 85.

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  • Comment number 91.

    reccomended a book called The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt for any student's of the world game. On your advice, I went out and bought it and have to say its really a remarkable piece of work.

  • Comment number 92.

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  • Comment number 93.

    As a general rule, I prefer to make my predictions after the event - I find it does wonders for their accuracy. But if you're going to put yourself on the line and make a forecast, there's one situation where getting it wrong is a pleasure - when someone turns out to be better than you expected.Video izle

  • Comment number 94.

    i saw his game in 90s, this man is super!
    today we know van de sara or peter cech but that days Rene was the man. Salute for him :thumbup: matelas

  • Comment number 95.

    Loved that photo of Higuita doing his 'scorpion' move. It was simply amazing and a big moment in a football history. Great article Tims!  Übersetzung Deutsch SpanischÜbersetzung Niederländisch Deutsch

  • Comment number 96.

  • Comment number 97.

    Great article. To casual watcher he will always be known for the scorpion save haha.
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  • Comment number 99.

    Really this is a great moment in football history |

  • Comment number 100.

    Rene Higuita was pure entertainment. I remember warching him for the first time, and putting a huge smile on my face. Footballers like these that are brave enough to take some risks to make the game more interesting and entertaining sould be applauded indeed.


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