'La Seleccion': Colombian Soccer in a Soap Opera World

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Aaron Schachter: A TV soap opera has millions of viewers hooked right now in Colombia. Here's a promo clip for "La Seleccion".

[Clip plays in Spanish]

Schachter: It sounds like an action-type movie trailer, doesn't it? But this is a TV soap opera about four star Colombian soccer players. The World's one-man soccer desk William Troop joins me now to talk about it. William, soap opera, soccer players, que pasa?

William Troop: Well, it's a little more interesting than that. There are not just any players. They are four of Colombia's best, most famous, most flamboyant soccer players ever. These are guys who together created one of the best soccer teams that Colombia has ever had and the national soccer team that made three world cups in a row – 1990, 1994, and 1998. A big, big deal in Colombia.

Schachter: So, William, just to be clear, this is a dramatization of these guys' lives, right? This is not a reality show or anything?

Troop: That's correct. These are actors portraying the four players.

Schachter: So who are they?

Troop: Well, two of them are star forwards, scored a lot of goals, so that's one reason they're famous, but really the two main guys are people you've probably heard about if you know anything about soccer. One is Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama who is known, yes, for his soccer play which was really exquisite to watch, but mostly because he had this huge mop of curly blonde hair. And he played in the US too in the early instances of major league soccer and was pretty famous here. The other guy is René Higuita. He's a goalie who really kinda made a name for himself in eternity in YouTube video clips for creating this thing called the "Scorpion Kick Save" where he saves a kick coming towards his goal not with his hands or with his chest or with his head, but by flipping over in some sort of kung fu move and getting the ball with the back of his heels.

Schachter: Yeah, it really is quite spectacular and we'll have that at theworld.org. So this TV series then is about their flamboyance on the field?

Troop: No, no, no. It's really about everything else. It's about their private lives, about their family, family feuds, what happens in the dressing room when nobody's looking.

Schachter: These players were on the pitch, on the field what? Fifteen years ago? Certainly more than a decade. Why bring the story up now?

Troop: Well, it's really about Colombia kinda emerging from decades of being the country that everybody thought of as the country of Pablo Escobar and drug lords and violence and kinda having a bit of a resurgence in positive patriotism. And in part that's because there's another Colombian national soccer team now that's doing pretty well after these guys were depicted in the soap opera retired. Now, they're on the verge of qualifying for a world cup once again fifteen years later.

Schachter: All right. We'll leave it at that. The World's William Troop. Thanks.

Troop: You're welcome.