Football: Death threats made against Colombia's Carlos Sanchez dredges up memories of murdered Andres Escobar

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez (right) is sent off by referee Damir Skomina during their match against Japan, on June 19, 2018.
Colombia's Carlos Sanchez (right) is sent off by referee Damir Skomina during their match against Japan, on June 19, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOTA (THE GUARDIAN) - Police in Colombia have launched an investigation into a series of online death threats made against midfielder Carlos Sanchez, who was sent off only three minutes into his country's opening World Cup Group H game.

In a chilling reminder of the murder of former Colombia defender Andres Escobar, who was gunned down just days after scoring an unfortunate own goal at the World Cup in 1994, several social media users have targeted the former Aston Villa player with vile messages threatening his life.

Sanchez, described as "one of Colombia's most important players" by national team manager Jose Pekerman, struck out a hand to block Shinji Kagawa's effort on the line and subsequently received the second fastest red card in World Cup history.

Kagawa rolled Japan's resulting penalty past David Ospina in a nightmare start to Colombia's World Cup campaign.

The extra Japanese player ultimately proved crucial as the Blue Samurai went on to record a shock 2-1 win against the group favourites.

However, as more than 25,000 Colombian disappointed fans left the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, one Twitter user posted a picture of Sanchez aligned with a photograph of Escobar and the message: "I propose a dream".

Amid the thousands of tweets repudiating the disgusting threat, other tweets followed from users supporting the idea.

"If Andres Escobar was killed for scoring an own goal, then Carlos Sanchez should be murdered and his dead body pissed on," read one of the replies.

Colombian radio station Blu Radio have now confirmed that the judicial arm of the Colombian police (Dijin) have assigned a special cyber-crime team to investigate the matter.

The news comes almost 24 years to the day that Escobar deflected a cross into his own goal against the United States.

Colombia face Poland in Kazan on Sunday (June 24) in a must-win tie for both countries.

Sanchez, who has 80 caps for his country, will miss the game after picking up a one-match ban.