A WhatsApp message at eight in the morning gave him the worst news he could read: Freddy Rincon, his great friend, suffered a car accident in Cali. What happened next is what we all know: the Colombian idol is in the Intensive Care Unit fighting for his life. “How is it not? In a minute… ”, he tells us on the other end of the phone Roberto Palacios. The ‘Chorri’ shows sadness when talking about his friend, he cannot hide it in this talk with DT El Comercio when remembering the moments they shared, facing each other on the field or being commentators on the program “The soccer corner” that is broadcast on YouTube.
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—What is the latest you know about Freddy Rincón’s situation?
Until yesterday he knew that he was brain dead and they were waiting for his son to decide to disconnect him so that Freddy could rest. The problem is that there is a lot of fake news, others say that he has already passed away. Now I am trying to communicate with his family to find out the truth. It is quite sad news, just when we had a very nice friendship that joined the program… the truth is that one feels it, it is like a blow.
“It’s amazing how life can change in a second, isn’t it?”
Yes. Today, with what we also went through with the pandemic, we must always try to take care of ourselves, which is the main thing. Then we have to enjoy the moment that God allows us to share with our family, who are the ones who will always be with us, through thick and thin. I always understood that from a very young age because it was instilled in me. what?how is it not? In a minute you can lose your life.
“How did you find out about the accident?”
We have a program on YouTube called “The soccer corner” that comes out on Mondays and Thursdays. Just the person in charge of all the details sends me the link of what he had been able to see in the Colombian news about the accident that Freddy had. That’s where I find out. It was eight in the morning I think. I grab my phone, search and couldn’t believe it.
It was like a bucket of cold water…
Yes. Other than that, he was a strong, healthy man with that spark that always characterized him. He couldn’t believe the truth. It was a very hard moment.
How was the friendship between the two born? They never played together…
In the stage of soccer players that we coincided in Brazil. When I arrived at Cruzeiro in ’97, he was already a figure there. He was one of the few, I think there were five foreigners in Brazilian football. At that time they didn’t need it – now they don’t need it either – and they were very nationalistic. There the times that we have faced each other we have always hugged, we shook hands. There the friendship began to grow because the fact that we are from different countries does not mean that we cannot be friends.
—And how was the program “El Rincon del Fútbol” in which they were born?
It was the idea of a business friend from Guayaquil with an Ecuadorian journalist. The idea was to put together an international program that is not only seen in Ecuador, but also reaches different parts of the world. So he looked for the most representative. Since he was also a friend of Freddy Rincón, he contacted him first and then me.
—What is Freddy Rincón like as a person?
A great person, with an incredible human quality, no one can doubt that. A great friend of mine. As a commentator he was direct, forthright, he didn’t keep quiet about anything.
“Do you have any memories with him?”
Just the photo I took recently. As a footballer we never take photos together. But I do have a memory when we played a Peru-Colombia. We went to the crash and I, with this little body, was able to knock him down, ha ha ha. I anticipated what I could do, I anticipated it because if he arrived armed he was going to throw me about three blocks.
—That Colombian generation with Rincón, ‘Pibe’ Valderrama, Asprilla, Higuita marked an era, right?
Sure, of course. Imagine what team we have faced, the best in Colombia in its history. El Pibe, Leonel Álvarez, Asprilla, Rincón, Higuita… Uff! What a selection they had!
—Do you think that in football many times you wait for something bad to happen to remember and value the idol?
The truth is that unfortunately they do not know how to value what one has done and what one can help young people to follow a path of success, so that the mistakes we made are not repeated and our virtues are the best. Sometimes leaders don’t realize that. The idol helps a lot in the clubs because the respect earned will always be there. I had him in Cristal until they changed owners, but it is important that the clubs always have a reference and leave them aside.
—Should there be a tribute now for Freddy Rincón?
The ideal is that they do it in life so that you can feel the love and appreciation. Freddy is a great sportsman who should have had recognition as ‘Pibe’ Valderrama and not wait until he is delicate to give him the tribute he deserves. Thank God people make me feel that I am a very loved person and so I have the peace of mind that when I have to leave, I will leave in peace.
– At the level of which players was Rincón?
At the height of the largest like Valderrama. The ‘Pibe’ did not play alone in the midfield of Colombia, he had Rincón next to him who went up and down, in addition to playing very well. Freddy is an idol of Colombian soccer. They helped Colombian soccer improve. Which team helped make Colombia better seen? They, then. He made Colombia famous.
—Leaving aside the issue of Rincón, hoping that hopefully he can improve and moving on to the Peruvian team. How many chances do you see us in the World Cup?
Very many, brother. I am not afraid who we will have to face: if it is the United Arab Emirates or Australia. The possibility of going to the World Cup is in our hands and I think there is no reason to worry about the rival. It is to prepare well, arrive well and go out to the field and enjoy that moment that God is not offering again. So I think we should stop talking to who will touch us, we wear ourselves out and waste time. What we have to talk about is that the boys arrive well prepared, with the rhythm of competition.