There are few players with a look so iconic that they are easily recognized all around the world by both fans and casuals. With his long blond curly hair, Carlos Valderrama is one of them. His image wearing the Colombia yellow jersey with blue and red stripes on the shoulders in 1990 is an unforgettable one for Latin American soccer fans.
The Colombian was a different kind of player, one of a kind. His pace was slow as a snail, he didn’t score a lot for an attacking midfielder. Physically, he didn’t look like a world class athlete. But his playmaking was way ahead of his times, with a passing ability and game vision that could rival with Xavi, Iniesta or Modric.
Valderrama had an outstanding career with his national team where he led the Cafeteros 3 times to the Copa America Semifinals and 3 World Cup participations, bringing them to the forefront of the international football scene.
El Pibe also had a long club career, playing in several teams in his native Colombia (Unión Magdalena, Millonarios FC, Deportivo Cali, Independiente de Medellín, and Atletico Junior de Barranquilla), Montpellier in France, Valladolid in Spain, Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion and Colorado Rapids in the United States’ Major League Soccer. He was set to play once again in his first club Unión Magdalena at age 42 and close his playing days where they began, but after missing his first training session (was set at 6:30 AM and he woke up at 8:00 AM), he decided that it was better to call it quits and let go.
He was named twice “Best South American player of the Year”, in 1987 and 1993 and was part of the FIFA 100, a list of what they considered the best players in history up to 2004, made by the Football Association and Pele to celebrate the 100th year of the organization.
His 1990 World Cup game in the Giuseppe Meazza/San Siro Stadium against the German team, who ended up winning the competition, is the quintessential Valderrama performance. Even though the most remembered play was his brilliant through ball to Freddy Rincon for the goal that tied the match in the 91st minute, the complete game was a Colombian exhibition of beautiful passing and attacking game, totally controlling the pace and rhythm, and it could have easily ended with a victory for the South American side.
Long after his retirement, el Pibe Valderrama remains a cult icon for football followers all around the globe, and specially in Latin America.
Inspired by this Valderrama’s performance, we released our Retro 1990 Colombia Jersey Sweatshirt, an homage to Carlos and his team with a contemporary streetwear twist.