Jose Rene Higuita Zapata is a former Colombian professional footballer. He was born on 27th August 1966 and hails from the city of Medellin in Colombia. Known as “El Loco” (The Madman) for his risky antics and eccentricity, he played as a goalkeeper. Higuita was a right footed player.
A revolutionary goalkeeper, he redefined the role that goalkeepers are supposed to play and laid the foundations for what we call today the “sweeper-keeper” which role is employed by some of the best goalkeepers in the world like Manuel Neuer and Hugo Lloris. Mostly, known for his ‘infamous’ scorpion kick against England, he deserves a lot of credit for revolutionising the role of a modern goalkeeper. He often tried to dribble with opposing strikers, and regularly ran out of the box to assist in the build up play. Also good at free kicks and penalties, he is one of the highest scoring goalkeepers in the history of football.
He was awarded the Golden Foot Legends Award in 2009 and was ranked as the 8th best keeper in South American history by the IFFHS.
Higuita started his youth career by playing for the local club Millonarios. Evidently, he did not start out as a goalkeeper but as a striker. He was even the top scorer in his school’s team. An injury to the side’s keeper, led him to don the gloves, but he showed so much as a goalkeeper that he eventually changed his position permanently.
Coming through the ranks, he made his senior debut for Millonarios in 1985 aged 19.
He made his senior national debut on 20th February 1990 in an international friendly match against the former Soviet Union. The game ended scoreless in regulation and the match went into extra-time and then to penalties. It proved to be an excellent debut for Higuita as he saved two penalties, and scored the winning spot kick, in addition to keeping a clean sheet for 120 minutes, as Colombia won 4:2 in penalties.
Rise to Glory
He first tasted success at the age of 23, when he lead Atletico Nacional to their first-ever Copa Libertadores title in 1989.
He then rose to glory in the 1990 season when he lead Atletico Nacional to a Copa Interamericana title. While playing for the Colombian national team in a friendly match against England, Higuita produced an overhead “scorpion kick” to clear an overhit cross from Jamie Redknapp. The moment was immortalised forever as it also ranked 94th in Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 20020.
His friendship with the two drug barons, Pablo Escobar and Carlos Molina, is not much of a secret and he had to serve seven months in prison, apparently for playing a ‘helping hand’ in the release of the latter’s daughter in a kidnapping case. Higuita pleaded that he was jailed for visiting Escobar in the prison with the desire to thank him for turning himself in.
The prison term saw him unfit to play for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, as Colombia crashed from elimination at home.
Higuita has played numerous clubs throughout his career, the most notable being Atletico Nacional and Real Valladolid.
He has won the Colombian League twice with Atletico Nacional, alongside winning the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Interamericana.
Higuita initially retired in 2007 but came out of retirement to play for Venezuelan club Guaros de Lara FC. He finally retired in January 2010.
Since his retirement, he has acted as a goalkeeping coach for clubs like Real Valladolid and Al Nassr FC of Saudi Arabia.