On their second day in the Colombian capital of Bogotá ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against local outfit Millonarios, Atlético were in very close proximity to the assassination attempt on former Colombia interior minister Fernando Londoño.
The bomb attack resulted in the death of two of the ex-government official’s bodyguards and left 39 others wounded, according to the Associated Press.
The incident casted a dark shadow over the rest of Atleti’s planned activities on Tuesday, as their training session at Millonarios’ El Campín stadium was to be attended by thousands of local schoolchildren.
Though the practice went on according to schedule, the stadium was largely empty apart from the members of the media and beefed up security personnel present, as the event with the Bogotá kids was cancelled as a safety precaution.
Afterwards, Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, the country’s biggest sports star at the moment, gave a press conference as part of a Gatorade promotional event in which he was obliged to speak about how much he loved the sports drink that sponsors him.
After getting the marketing aspect of the presser out of the way, Falcao answered questions about his goals – both personally and as a team – for next season with Atlético, and he shed some light on how his team-mates reacted to the violent act of aggression that took place earlier.
“There were comments, but not a lot,” Falcao said of his team-mates reaction to the bombing.
“It’s something very unfortunate that us, Colombians, regret, but those of us that want peace and coexistence without these types of acts are in the majority.
“We were calm in the hotel.”
When asked about how he has been handling his growing stardom and the intense spotlight that comes along with it, the 26-year-old responded: “Life has changed a bit. Sometimes I don’t realise what I’m experiencing. I try to experience it because it’s not something that is repeated very frequently.
“In this career, one day you’re on top and the next you’re at the bottom.”
With regard to his objectives with los Rojiblancos for our next campaign, the back-to-back Europa League winner and top scorer gave no indication that he could be on the way out of the club.
“I’d like to surpass my goal total from this year, a significant total in a league like the Spanish one, which is in no way easy, so it’s a goal and a challenge that interests me,” he said.
“In the short term, I think our goal is to win the European Super Cup, last year I couldn’t play in it because I transferred to Atlético, but it’s the last time it will be in Monaco and I would like to be there.”
He continued: “Later, the squad will aim for Champions League qualification and fight for the top spots, and also defend the Europa League title.”
When I asked the Colombia international what his favourite goal was “in his first of 10 seasons at Atleti”, he laughed and asked me if I had doubled the years on his contract, before answering my question seriously.
“This year, I scored some very nice goals, but some stand out because of their importance, like the first one from the final of the Europa League because it opened up the path, and I also liked the one I scored against Valencia in the semi-finals, because it was with my left foot, I think those two were the best ones.”
El Tigre, who with his last goal of the season sent Villarreal down to Spain’s second division on the final match day of La Liga last Sunday, said of the Yellow Submarine: “I felt bad for Villarreal, for [countryman Cristian] Zapata, and other former team-mates of mine from River [Plate].
“I don’t think their fans love me too much,” he said, evoking laughter from all those present.