Colombia 1986 FIFA World Cup logo

We all remember the iconic 1986 World Cup, the one that witnessed Maradona shine on the biggest stage in football, leading Argentina to become world champion. The truth is that few world cups are as memorable as that, but did you know that this World Cup was not originally going to be celebrated in Mexico? We will review the history of the failed World Cup in Colombia 1986.

And the World Cup is to...

1974 FIFA General Assembly

It was the year of 1974 and before the World Cup in Germany '74, FIFA is preparing to choose the country that would receive the honor of organizing the 1986 World Cup. The great Colombian sports director, Alfonso Senior, proposed to the then President of Colombia to present its candidacy to host the World Cup. Alfonso Senior is known for being the "Father of Colombian football" and one of the most important sports leaders of the 20th Century; founder of the club Millonarios, of the First Division of Colombia and responsible for the arrival of World-caliber players in Colombia, such as Alfredo Di Stefano. Convincing the Colombian President was simple, now he had to do the same with his colleagues on the FIFA Executive Committee.

Senior, with his great business skills and reputation as an honorable man, managed to dissuade FIFA that Colombia, a third-world country, would be able to host the great event of World Football in 1986 despite not having infrastructure and having their known problems. After all, there were still 12 years to go before the event took place. What could go wrong?

1982: Politics throws everything away.

The 1982 World Cup ended with the Italian national team proclaiming itself champion. From the stands you could read the slogan "We are waiting for you in Colombia 1986". The truth is that there were only 4 years to go before the World Cup was held, but on Colombian soil they were less than prepared. Each of the rulers in turn since 1974 made the respective use of the World Cup speech as part of their political campaign, but the truth is that both the organizing committee and the government did little and nothing to make the necessary preparations for the celebration of the event , except for a pet that could easily have been the ugliest in the history of the world cup.

It was 1982 and Belisario Betancur was elected the new President of Colombia, who ratified his commitment to the World Cup in advance. Despite the confidence that the then President of FIFA, Joao Havelange, had with the promise of Alfonso Senior, from within FIFA they decided to protect their backs due to the short period of time remaining for the World Cup, and drew up a list with the requirements for Colombia to be ratified as the venue for the 1986 World Cup. The list was as follows:

*12 stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000 people for the group stage.

*4 stadiums with a minimum capacity of 60,000 people for the second phase.

*2 stadiums with a minimum capacity of 80,000 people for the inaugural and final matches.

*The installation of a communication tower in Bogotá.

*Freezing of hotel rates for FIFA members as of January 1, 1986.

*The issuance of a decree that legalized the free circulation of international currencies in the country.

*A large fleet of limousines available to FIFA officials.

*A network of trains that will communicate all the venues.

*Airports with capacity for jet aircraft landing in all venues.

*A network of roads that allowed the movement of the fans.

President Belisario Betancur

All were logical requirements that would allow success in the development of the event and are now indispensable in any country that wants to host an event of this magnitude. However, the Colombian government categorized these requests as "absurd", because the country did not have sufficient monetary reserves. President Betancur met with his government cabinet and despite the pleas of Mr. Senior in which he argued that the World Cup would serve Colombia as a way to strengthen the country in terms of infrastructure and international reputation; He met with the President's refusal, who appealed to the excuse of "Schools and hospitals are more important than the World Cup".

Finally, the Colombian President addressed the following day to the country with the following words:

"As we preserve the public good, as we know that waste is unforgivable, I announce to my compatriots that the 1986 World Cup will not be held in Colombia, after democratic consultation about what our real needs are: the golden rule was not met, Consistent that the World Cup should serve Colombia and not Colombia to the World Cup multinational, here we have other things to do, and there is not even time to attend to the extravagances of FIFA and its partners, García Márquez completely compensates us for what we lose. Showcase with the World Cup. "

And that is how Colombia became the first and only country to refuse the organization of a World Cup.

The legacy of the 1986 World Cup.

Today, 32 years later, it is incredible how Colombia squandered this historic opportunity. As demonstrated by South Africa or Brazil, each one of the millionaire expenses that entails the realization of an event of this caliber, are almost immediately replaced in concepts of tourism and marketing. And it is not only the economic aspect, the 1986 World Cup could have left as a legacy for Colombia a series of football and urban infrastructures that Colombians were still enjoying today. The reasons why the World Cup was declined were simply ridiculous. To make matters worse, Mexico with only 3 years of preparation and a devastating earthquake in between, managed to perfectly organize one of the best world cups in history, from the organizational and the football.

The "miracle" that Alfonso Senior worked with his efforts to get Colombia elected as the venue at the end did not help. For the story are his words of rage and final relief:

"Colombia is a dwarf country that does not fit big things. And the company to make the World Cup is a great commitment. I wanted something of that size for Colombia, and Colombia answered me. "

Much time has passed since then and Colombia has emerged as a power in the American continent in the social, political and football. In 2011 they managed to organize a beautiful U-20 World Cup, which suggests that the Colombian people are ready to host an even bigger event; However, there will always be the disquiet of that 1986 World Cup that they rejected because of politics. Today we could be talking about how the "Hand of God", the Argentine victory or the best goal in the history of the World Cups marked the legacy of Colombia 1986, the World Cup that never was.