Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/
  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/


Narcos: 10 Soccer Players And Teams Accused Of Drug Trafficking

So you think you know all about Narcos just because you’ve watched all three seasons of the eponymous Netflix show? Well, think again. There are likely still a couple things you don’t know about the link between soccer and drug trafficking, with major drug kingpins linked to soccer stars. 

Now that Mexico’s Rafa Márquez is under investigation concerning alleged ties with drug trafficking, we have put together a list of ten soccer players and institutions that were either prosecuted, convicted or even killed as a result of bad company.

1) René Higuita

Remember Colombian goalkeeper legend René Higuita’s otherworldly scorpion kick save? Turns out it wasn’t exactly the most daring thing “El Loco” ever did. After spending the majority of his career playing for Atlético Nacional, Higuita retired in 2008. However, he had been away from the fields before.

In 1993 he was imprisoned after being accused of getting involved in a kidnapping and collaborating with foremost drug-lord Pablo Escobar. He was imprisoned for seven months and then released without charge.

Soccer and drug trafficking


2) Atlético Nacional

In a time when Colombia and particularly the city of Medellín were directly linked to violence, drug trafficking and Pablo Escobar, the soccer team Atlético Nacional became a reason for Colombians to feel proud. The club won the 1989 Copa Libertadores and was a sign that Colombia had a positive side to be projected internationally.

However, it later became clear Pablo Escobar had invested large amounts of money in Atlético Nacional, thus illegally laundering funds while aiding the club to maintain talented local players and even signing high-profile foreigners.

In 1990, Colombian teams were banned from Copa Libertadores after some referees were threatened (with the exemption of Atlético Nacional, which was admitted as the previous year’s champion).

After Pablo Escobar was hunted down in 1993, illicit funds ceased contributing to the finances of Atlético Nacional. This resulted in the club’s progressive loss of international relevance.

Soccer and drug trafficking

@SimonEdwardsSAF | Twitter

3) Albeiro Palomo Usuriaga

Colombian striker Albeiro Palomo Usuriaga was suspended due to cocaine consumption in 1997. In 2004 he was killed by a sicario (hitman).

Soccer and drug trafficking

@GonzaDeFeliche | Twitter

4) Byron Moreno

The Ecuadorian referee, who once worked in the 2002 World Cup, was arrested in a New York airport while transporting 13 pounds of heroine. He served a two-year long sentence. So much for fair play!

Soccer and drug trafficking

@DavidMorales911 | Twitter

5) Adriano

In 2010, the former Roma and Corinthians striker Adriano faced drug trafficking charges that were later dissmissed by a judge for lack of evidence.

Soccer and drug trafficking


As the main battlefield of the war on drugs shifted from Colombia to Mexico, there has been a rise in accusations involving Mexican players and drug-dealing businesses.

6) Omar Ortiz

Former Monterrey goalkeeper Omar “El Gato” Ortiz was arrested in 2012, accused of being a member of a kidnapping gang associated to the Cartel del Golfo.

Soccer and drug trafficking

@diarioelpopular | Twitter

7) Daniel Gómez

A 21-year-old Tijuana player, Daniel Gómez was arrested in April 2017 when trying to smuggle more than 50 pounds of methamphetamines into the United States.

Soccer and drug trafficking

@Mexinauta | Twitter

8) Pelé's son

Brazilian legend Pelé’s son, Edson Cholbi do Nascimento “Edinho,” is currently serving a 12-year sentence for drug trafficking.

Soccer and drug trafficking


9) Lionel Messi

Even Lionel Messi has been accused of being tied (at least indirectly) to unlawful fund managing practices. In 2015, the DEA investigated the charity matches named Messi and Friends “Messi y sus amigos” organized by Fundación Messi. The charitable sporting events took place in Latin America in 2013. A DEA protected witness claimed that the Mexican drug cartel of “Los Valencia” laundered money in via donations.

Soccer and drug trafficking

@notimundo28 | Twitter

10) Jesús Corona and Diego Reyes

The transfers of Jesús “Tecatito” Corona (from Monterrey to Twente) and Diego Reyes (from América to Porto) in 2013 were also under investigation. The transfers were made with the mediation of company Grupo Comercializador Cónclave SA de CV, linked to the Juarez cartel.

Soccer and drug trafficking

Videos you might like