Uncategorized

Gerardo Bedoya: The story of the world’s ‘dirtiest’ footballer

“When he appears on TV, the presenter will usually have a red card in his pocket or shin pads on because that’s Bedoya’s reputation more than anything.”

A resident in the country’s capital, Bogota, Colombian football journalist Carl Worswick is no stranger to the legacy of Gerardo Bedoya.

Bedoya Photo Getty Images

Bedoya, 44, is, after all, the player with the most red cards in football history.

“Before going to his house to interview him once, we filmed a matador to explain his personality but he was exactly the opposite to what you would expect,” Worswick, then filming for Fifa’s Futbol Mundial series, told BBC Sport.

“He makes the point that on the pitch and off the pitch he’s a completely different person.

“He was a decent footballer but that has not been enough to detract from the other part of his career. The headlines always scream ‘the world’s dirtiest player’,”

It was a forgivable preconception. Known as ‘The General’ and ‘The Beast’, Bedoya accumulated 45 red cards during a 20-year playing career – which ended in 2015 – with a further two dismissals arriving from the dugout since.

He received his first as an assistant coach after just 21 minutes in 2016.

Perhaps the most remembered, his 41st red card was awarded after he was penalised for elbowing an opponent and a subsequent kick-out at the floored player’s head earned him a 15-match ban.

Despite the mounting evidence to suggest otherwise, Bedoya’s post-match defence was that he was “not normally like this”.

“He certainly had an explosive personality,” added Worswick. “When he saw red he couldn’t control himself. In the heat of the moment, he wasn’t able to take a breather and get on with it. He always piled in.

“To be sent off 21 minutes into his first game as an assistant manager – when that happened the players on the bench were laughing, they couldn’t believe it. They knew it was going to happen. Certainly, his reputation hasn’t helped him.”

Born in Ebejico in 1975, there were history-defining moments of euphoria amid the many flashes of red for Bedoya.

Above all, he was a key member of Colombia’s only major footballing triumph at the 2001 Copa America, where his strike from outside the penalty area helped Colombia overcome Honduras in the semi-finals. They would go on to defeat Mexico 1-0 in the final.

That same year, his 86th-minute thunderbolt for Argentina’s Racing against title rivals River Plate – remembered as one of the club’s most celebrated goals – earned a 1-1 draw to keep Racing top and all but secure the 2001 Apertura championship.

It was Racing’s first title in 35 years.

Representing 13 clubs in Central and South America, Bedoya impressed enough to earn moves to another Argentine side in Boca Juniors and Puebla in Mexico, but remained in Colombia for the vast majority of his career.

There, he helped Independiente Santa Fe end their own 37-year wait for a title in 2013.

“At Santa Fe the fans absolutely loved him because he was a player who would always storm in to tackles and give 100%,” said Worswick. “They see him as someone who gave absolutely everything to the cause. It’s one of the classic clichés that he feels the badge.

“Bedoya commanded respect and scored some spectacular goals, but he feels he is only remembered for the red cards. For Santa Fe and Racing fans, he will be remembered as integral to ending their drought of titles at pretty big teams.”

After Bedoya won the first of his three titles at Deportivo Cali in 1998 and recorded 14 red cards in the process, the drama was never far away.

A further five dismissals arrived at Racing, while there were notable hauls of seven and eight reds during spells on either side of the Bogota divide at rivals Millonarios and Santa Fe respectively.

A former team-mate of Bedoya at Millonarios between 2007 and 2010, Colombian winger Omar Vasquez often roomed with his compatriot before matchdays.

“It’s not unusual in our society for people to only remember the bad things, but he has to be remembered as a great player of our country,” Vasquez told BBC Sport.

“Bedoya was a winner, a history maker who played for and won titles with the best teams in Argentina as well as Colombia.

“For me, it was privilege to share a dressing room with him, with somebody who achieved great things in his career. I enjoyed it a lot and I have lots of good memories.”

Bedoya’s world record does not appear under threat any time soon.

Of those still with a chance of eclipsing his tally, Real Madrid and Spain defender Sergio Ramos is closest following his 26th dismissal against Manchester City in the Champions League in February. At 34 years old, he is unlikely to get close.

Whether Bedoya, now 44, is given the opportunity to return to the sidelines in a coaching capacity – and almost inevitably add to his total – remains to be seen.

“He always makes the point that he doesn’t have any enemies now,” said Worswick. “Since he retired he has been quite outspoken in trying to rewrite his reputation. He believes he gave it his all and the fans loved him for it.”

For many outside of Colombia, Bedoya may always be the football statistic, one backed up by internet clips of tough tackles and reckless off-the-ball incidents.

However, for the fans of Racing and Santa Fe especially, along with his former team-mates, he will be thought of well beyond those moments.

“He was a strong leader and somebody who fought for every ball. He would command the team.” said Vasquez.

“He was a sensitive guy who would always help others. It might seem contradictory, but off the pitch he’s a friendly guy, a person with a big, noble heart.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
Close
Close