Asprilla: I had to beg a hitman not to kill Chilavert

Faustino Asprilla Colombia
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The former Newcastle man has revealed the drama that followed a 1997 World Cup qualifier

Former Colombia and Newcastle United striker Faustino Asprilla has revealed that he once had to talk a hitman down from murdering legendary Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert.

The incident happened following a World Cup qualifying match in 1997, which was won by the Paraguay 2-1 thanks to and own goal and an 82nd-minute strike from Derlis Francisco Soto.

Asprilla, who was sent off during the game, has claimed he received a call to his hotel room from the gunman.

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"Are you crazy?" he told the prospective assassin, according to his version of events on local television station TelePacifico

"You will destroy Colombian football. What happens on the pitch stays there."

Asprilla, who recently turned 50, is one of the best-known players to have emerged from the South American nation. He made his name during the 1990s, notably turning out for Newcastle, for whom he scored a Champions League hat-trick against Barcelona.

While playing for his country, he netted 20 times in 57 appearances and was their leading marksman as they qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France, finishing third in the CONMEBOL qualifying section thanks to a fine late run of results.

Paraguay, meanwhile, also qualified for the finals in Europe. It was their first ever participation at the event and they made the knockout stages before ultimately being knocked out by hosts France via the golden goal rule.

Chilavert was one of the great characters of their run to the finals and was a goalkeeper noted for his flamboyance. He had a particular taste for taking set pieces and over the course of his career he scored 54 goals, including eight for his country in 74 appearances.

Although he spent the bulk of his career playing club football in South America, he turned out for Real Zaragoza in Spain between 1988 and 1991, while he had a two-year spell in France with Strasbourg from 2001-2003.

South American football in the 1990s was noted for its violence, with Colombia defender Andres Escobar infamously murdered after he scored an own goal in a 3-1 loss against the USA during the 1994 World Cup finals – a tournament in which Colombia failed to show their potential.