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A Latin American Soap Opera – Starring – Paraguay’s national hero, a Mexican gang boss called ‘JJ’ and Miss Antioquia 2008

On January 25th 2010, a footballer in his prime was shot in the head in a bar in Mexico City. Miraculously he survived but his football career has not and he sadly announced his intention to retire recently.  A year on from the attack I take a brief look at the career of Salvador Cabañas and how his life is shaping up in the aftermath of the horrific attack.

I would imagine Salvador Cabañas is glad to see the back of 2010. A year in which his football career was ruined, his world cup dream taken away from him, tax problems surfaced in Mexico, his former agent is suing him and his wife has made a few unpopular moves and comments back in his homeland of Paraguay.

Cabañas is not a footballer that well known outside of Latin America, as he never made a move to Europe, despite some strong rumours of a transfer to Sunderland. He started out in his homeland of Paraguay, and then it was onto Chile before heading north to Mexico to earn a greater salary and reputation.

His career took off when he had a prolific season with Audax Italiano in the Chilean Primera Division in 2003. He then won his place back in the Paraguayan national team and then earned a big money move to Mexico where he made quite a name for himself with his scoring exploits. He first joined Jaguares de Chiapas before going onto Club America, a big force in Mexican football and based in the Capital.

He had been enjoying the moniker of ‘King of America’ in Mexico, a title reflecting his hero status with the fans of Club America. He had scored 66 goals in 115 games for America. Then, one fateful night in a toilet in a bar in Mexico City, he was shot in the head whilst enjoying a drink with his wife and his life was dramatically turned upside down and the drama had just begun.

He has hero status as well back in his homeland. He was top scorer for Paraguay as they qualified for their first World Cup since 1998 and when the tragic news came through thousands gathered in the national stadium to hold a vigil for Cabañas. After 30 days he regained consciousness and was talking away within minutes, astounding doctors and the police, although he remembers nothing of the actual incident.

The wife of Salvador, Maria Alonso, has been very vocal since the attack and has criticised the Mexican club for not paying his wages. In turn many citizens in Paraguay have been critical of Salvador’s wife’s pleading of poverty at first and the fact the government has granted them a welfare pension, usually only reserved for the very poor in Paraguay. She has now rejected the offer from the government and says she is prepared to work and just wants justice for her husband. This has brought about much argument in Paraguayan society but it seems the Cabañas family are on the brink of bankruptcy, brought about through tax evasion, and have sued his former agent José María González and Club America for breach of trust and fraud in relation to breaking contract agreements and failing to notify him of his tax issues, however Cabanas is also being sued by his agent for these claims.

As for the shooting incident, I would like to introduce to the story, José Jorge Balderas Garza or ‘JJ’. He is the probable perpetrator of the crime of attempted murder and he has been found and arrested recently, bizarrely with the help of Facebook. A location update posted by his Colombian model girlfriend Juliana Sossa (Miss Antioquia 2008!) alerted Mexican police to his whereabouts. You can only conclude that Ms.Sossa must either be very naive or looking for revenge of some kind.

JJ is an alleged associate of the infamous purported drug lord Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie,” who was arrested last year and all kinds of different rumours circulate around the pair and just why they shot Cabañas. JJ claims Cabañas was acting violently that night but denies carrying out the shooting, instead blaming his bodyguard. JJ and his six associates were arrested soon after the Facebook update. They were carrying false IDs, along with what appeared to be bags of cocaine, guns and ammunition. He had been in hiding since the incident.

As for Cabañas, he needs to go back to Mexico to give evidence for the prosecution of JJ, however there is an arrest warrant out for Cabanas to. He is wanted by Mexican authorities for those unpaid taxes since 2007. The case rests on a knife-edge.

It’s a Latin soap opera that I have been following for awhile with many unbelievable episodes but I hope Salvador and his family find some solace and peace soon.. He has recently been given some hope that he might be able to play football again,  although with the bullet still lodged in his head this carries a risk and after all his been through already it’s debatable as to whether it is a risk worth taking.

Related Links (In Spanish) – News report from the day of the attack – Top Ten Goals For Club America – You don’t need much spanish to enjoy this one

1 reply »

  1. Just found your website this evening whilst doing a long-overdue trawl through my Twitter followers to see if any needed following back (you did, so hello!). Thanks for this article, it’s a nice summary of events since the shooting.

    Nearly two years ago, I was in Mexico for a friend’s wedding and whilst in Mexico City had to try and get to a match at the Estadio Azteca. That unfortunately meant going to see Club América (my friend’s wife is a Pumas fan, so I don’t like América), but on the plus side I got to see Cabañas play, having hugely enjoyed him during América’s run the semis of the Copa Libertadores the previous year (if I remember my dates correctly). He didn’t actually do anything especially spectacular that day, but that didn’t matter. Two through balls played to América’s right winger with his chest were all I needed.

    The man had a better control with his chest than most other players I’ve seen in the flesh have with their feet. I remember one goal from that 2008 Libertadores when he ran onto a lofted ball forward and, as it dropped almost vertically over his left shoulder, stopped it almost dead with his chest before volleying it past the goalkeeper (bafflingly, it isn’t in that Top 10 vid you’ve linked to on YouTube).

    I love Salvador, and last year’s World Cup was a little poorer for his absence. I also remain convinced, given how close Paraguay’s quarter-final with Spain was (both sides having penalties saved, and Spain’s patient possession game being visibly rattled), that the entire tournament could have had a very different outcome had he been in South Africa (I don’t mean to suggest Paraguay might’ve won the whole thing, mind).

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