Atletico National, a club that now is respected throughout the world for its demonstration of humanity and unconditional support to the victims of the Chapecoense tragedy, has already had an episode stained by the influence of organized crime. In 1990, the Cartel of Medellin (Colombia) led by Pablo Escobar found a way for money laundering and to gain charisma among the local population by sponsoring football teams across the country, such as Independiente Medellín and Atletico National itself.
During the 1990 Copa Libertadores, a great suspicion hovered over the Atletico National's match against Vasco da Gama, won by the Colombians 3-2. Uruguayan referee Daniel Cardellino confessed that he received death threats, as well as an offer of $20,000 to help Atletico Nacional win the quarter-final. It was the famous "dead or money" tactic practiced by the drug barons to coerce people on the basis of fear, violence and bribery. In an interview with the newspaper "O Estado de S. Paulo" in 2014, Eurico Miranda, president of Vasco, stated that "there were guys from the Cartel of Medellin with machine guns in the locker room". After that revelation, CONMEBOL decided that the match should be played again, but on neutral ground, to avoid influence on the result. The game was played in Chile and the Colombians returned to beat the Cariocas by 1-0.
Argentine referee Juan Bava recalled a similar story in one of the matches played in 1989. He received a one million dollar offer to favor Atletico Nacional while he had a gun pointed at his head.
In November 1989, assistant referee Alvaro Ortega was shot dead in Medellin. Weeks before his death, Ortega had overturned a goal from Independiente Medellin in a deciding match against America of Cali. The Colombian federation was pressured by FIFA and CONMEBOL to suspend the Colombian Championship that year, which ended without a champion.