A year on from a truly horrific attack, Salvador Cabañas has been forced to retire from football and is trying to find a life after the game. Adam Brandon reports on a sad but also complicated story...
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 unpopular 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 a Europe, despite some strong rumours of a move to Sunderland. He started out in 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 a place in the Paraguayan national team and earned a big money move to Mexico where he made quite a name for himself with his scoring exploits. Cabanas first joined Jaguares de Chiapas before going onto Club America, a force in Mexican football.
Cabanas had been enjoying the moniker of ‘King of America’ in Mexico, a title reflecting his hero status with the fans of Club America for whom he'd scored 66 goals in 115 games. Then, one fateful night in a bar in Mexico City, he was shot in the head whilst enjoying a drink with his wife. It looked at once as if his life was over. In reality, the drama had only just begun.
Cabañas has hero status in his homeland. He was top scorer for Paraguay as they qualified for the World Cup in South Africa and when the tragic news came through of his shooting, thousands gathered in the national stadium to hold a vigil for the striker. After 30 days he regained consciousness and was talking within minutes, astounding doctors, although he remembers nothing of the actual incident.
Cabañas' wife, Maria Alonso, has been very vocal since the attack and has criticisedher husband's Mexican club for not paying his wages. In turn many citizens in Paraguay have been critical of Salvador’s wife’s pleading of poverty and the fact the government has granted them a welfare pension - usually only reserved for the very poor. She has now rejected the offer from the government, says she is prepared to work and just wants justice for her husband. This has brought about much attention in Paraguayan society, and it seems the Cabañas family are on the brink of bankruptcy, brought about through alleged tax evasion, and have sued the striker's former agent José María González and Club America for breach of trust and fraud. However, Cabanas is also being countersued 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 alleged perpetrator of attempted murder and has been 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 would want to shoot 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 a while 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 and after all his been through already it’s debatable as to whether it is a risk worth taking.
You can follow Adam on Twitter @caniggiascores & read his excellent blog here