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I miss you so much, Palomo.

Second installment of the series tribute to strange players of our football. On this occasion: the Palomo Usuriaga.


Something very rare happened in my family: my old man was Racing (like practically his whole family, which consisted of 19 uncles and more than 50 cousins) and my sister, I suspect that to prove the logical rebellion of adolescence,  was made of    Independent. The thing is that in my family things are not taken lightly, so my sister did not become a fan of red: she became a fanatical. And he started wanting to go to the court. One day, my old man, almost with tears in his eyes, said to me, “I don't want your sister to feel like I don't want to accompany her to the court.  But to see those bitters I'm not even going crazy. You're going to have to take her.”  He threw that little pesadito bundle at me and I picked up the glove: at that time of my life I loved going to watch football at the stadium. It was by that chance of life that I could see in action a player who, when I remember, still dazzles me.  I'm talking about Albeiro “El palomo” Usuriaga Lopez, one of the best players I saw in my life. 

Palomo played very against the fuck.  He was a crack and an awesome athlete  (I didn't see that speed and that technique combined into one type again), but I had a magnet for the scandal. Perhaps that's why he never managed to play in an important European team (he only did it in the humble Spanish Malaga).

Either way, Albeiro, who had earned his nickname because in one of his first professional matches in Colombia, when he was the best player of the match they gave him a swap of clothes and chose a white suit that caused his friends, when they saw him reach the neighborhood, say “Here comes the pigeon!”, managed to  win local tournaments in Colombia, Mexico and Argentina and  a  Libertadores with Atlético Nacional and a South American Super Cup and a South American Recopa with Independiente  (where he played 63 matches, scored 20 goals and won three titles).

The problems with the behavior began to be noticed in 1990: he made the only goal of the Colombia national team in the repechage against Israel, which  qualified them to the World Cup in Italy  (it was the second time in history that they qualified a World Cup), but for issues that were never entirely clarified, at the zenith of his career was disconnected from the selection and did not summon him to the World Cup. Some say that the situation caused him  a diseasation from which he never recovered.  

He never left his neighborhood. He had a hard time living away from his neighbors all his life, so he returned again and again to Colombia. He gave clothes and food to whoever needed it and paid for school to a lot of young people  who still remember him almost like a father.  In 1997 he was suspended by the AFA because it tested positive for cocaine. When he returned to play, he did so in General Paz Juniors in Córdoba, a team of Argentino A that thanks to Palomo promoted for the first and only time in its history to the National B. The fans of the Cordovan “Poeta” continue to love him. An anecdote he himself told a journalist paints it full body: when he finally had the necessary money, he bought his first car. Since he didn't know how to drive, he asked the dealership how he was wearing the first. Surprised by the question, the seller explained to him. The Palomo came out driving.  He hit two blocks away. 

In 2004 (he was still playing at 37) he was in a little cloudy place in Cali. He used to be found there playing domino and betting sports results. Not to say anything, at a time when Cali was one of the most dangerous cities in the world, a guy got off a motorcycle  and hit him thirteen shots . They wanted to relate him to settling accounts for drug sales, but Colombian justice managed, over time, to clear the name of the Palomo: investigations concluded that the murder was ordered by Jefferson Valdez Marín, head of a gang of hitmen, because the Colombian crack was in a couple with his ex. It took the life of one of the best players I saw in my life.  What a silly death.  As it could not be otherwise, until his wake was a feast: a crowd broke into the Cathedral and took it, in the box of a van, to pure music and celebration, to the Metropolitan Cemetery of Cali, where anyone who wants to bring a flower can find it. I wish someday I can go visit him.

For those who miss him like me, here is a video to remember him smiling and doing what he liked most: goals.

Publication Date: 24/03/2019

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