Leading up to the 2010 World Cup bonanza in South Africa Paraguayan international striker Salvador Cabanas was enjoying the most prolific spell in his career, until he was shot in the head at the ‘Bar Bar’ night club in Mexico City.
Courted by English Premier League outfit Sunderland, Cabanas was on course for a starting role for Paraguay at the world cup after a brilliant season with Mexican Giants Club America.
Cabanas had a frightening goal scoring record, apt with either foot and feared for his heading ability, he possessed pace, power and technique that set him apart from most on the pitch.
He scored an incredible 66 goals in 155 appearances for Club America, scoring well over 100 goals in his career in the top Mexican football division and netting 10 goals in his 44 appearances for Paraguay.
He was voted South American and Paraguayan footballer of the year in 2007, enjoying his football and continually attracting attention from big clubs in Europe.
But all was horribly and violently snatched away January 25th, 2010. Many reports have surfaced about the events of the night, but what is sure is that around 5:00 in the morning Cabanas was shot in the forehead in the male toilets of the ‘Bar Bar’ night spot in Mexico City.
Nelson Valdez, an international team mate of Cabanas, said in an interview to football magazine’ Four Four Two’ that, “He was stopping himself getting robbed in a bar in Mexico”. Whatever happened that night the consequences for Cabanas and his family were severe.
The bullet was left in his brain as doctors said it was too dangerous to proceed with the operation. After close observation Cabanas left intensive care in February 2010 and has made a remarkable recovery, but reports claim that he suffers from short term memory loss.
Early in 2011 Mexican authorities announced that they had arrested known drug dealer Jose Jorge ‘JJ’ Balderas in connection with the shooting.
Balderas is alleged to have trafficked cocaine for drug lord Efrain Valdez, caught and arrested earlier this year. Valdez confessed to authorities that he had helped hide Balderas after the shooting.
It is still not known if the incident was an assassination attempt or merely an accident, however what is so tragically clear is a promising career lost like dust in the wind. But whether he will play football again is something pulling Cabanas through this devastating time.
In an interview given to ‘Four Four Two’ magazine in March 2010, Cabanas was adamant he would play again, “I’m already kicking a ball”, he said, “I’m nearly ready”. In the interview he also thanked those who had prayed for him and for those you had supported his recovery.
He ended with strong words: “I still want to play, really, and I am happy to be alive and to have recovered and that very soon we’ll be back on the field”. He has recently signed to train with Libertad in his native Paraguay.
The battle to play football is not the only one facing Cabanas however. He is reportedly ready to sue former team Club America. Cabanas spoke out against Club America for allegedly cutting contact with him, not paying him or contributing towards his medical costs as they promised after news of the tragedy became known world wide.
Making a statement via his representative, Jose Maria Gonzalez to the Mexican Football Federation and on Paraguayan Digital magazine ABC, Cabanas claimed that Club America had stopped payments to the clinic in which he was receiving rehabilitation.
Club America, owned by Mexican Television giants ‘Televisa’, are coming under increasing scrutiny for literally abandoning Cabanas and not paying him for the time he still has on his contract with the club.
Recently the club tired to settle the dispute with Cabanas out of court but no deal has yet been signed.
Whatever happens in the next chapter of Cabanas’ life, what is evident is a man with a powerful faith in his own abilities; on the road to recovery and to reclaim his rightful place amongst the elite band of top goal scoring attackers in world football.