Tomorrow Salvador Cabañas will be on the bench for his hometown club, 12 de Octubre of Itaguá, if he takes to the field of play it will be his first competitive match since being shot in the head on 25th January 2010 in Mexico City. Rather than go over that fateful night again or guess about how he gets on (honestly I have no idea) I just wanted to share my five favourite memories (very personal to me) of a true Paraguayan idol and why he was such a special player. Please put some of your favourite Cabañas memories in the comments below, in English or Spanish!
1. Paraguay vs Bolivia, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, 5 September 2009
A dull game, won by one-goal to nil – a penalty from El Mariscal on the stroke of halftime which was his last ever strike on Paraguayan soil. I was in the Graderia Sur that evening and while it was Cabañas’ last goal it was a personal first for me, the first football match I attended with my then girlfriend and now wife.
2. Paraguay vs Uruguay, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, 17 October 2007
Two years previously I was sat amongst a bunch of English friends in Graderia Sur again, Paraguay’s first home game of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and the first time I saw Cabañas in the flesh. He didn’t score that night but was the albirroja’s stand out player and made the goal by pouncing on Diego Lugano’s poor header before flicking the ball over the head of another Uruguayan defender and passing to Nelson Haedo Valdez for the winner.
3. Paraguay vs Brazil, My parent’s house, 15 June 2009
I remember settling down to this qualifier one (European) summer evening with my younger brother, I’d been raving about Salvador Cabañas to him and of course this game got my sibling hooked. Paraguay outplayed their illustrious opponents to win 2-0, the first goal was from Roque Santa Cruz set up by a wonderful backheel from Cabañas who then scored the second goal just after halftime.
4. CF América vs Santos, The internet, 15 May 2008
The only player to finish topscorer in consecutive years in the Copa Libertadores is Salvador Cabañas, this was the second season he did it for América and with two goals in the quarter finals that showed his incredible chest control. The first from a corner that evaded everybody and found the Itagueño at the back post, he chested it down then poked it past the goalkeeper. The second was a raking long ball, Cabañas in behind the defence and brought the ball down perfectly with his chest before finishing. His goals that year meant they extracted revenge on Santos who had knocked the Mexicans out the previous year in the last 16.
5. Paraguay vs Ecuador, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, 2011
The time when I finally got to touch the great man who was being introduced to José Luis Chilavert by the President of the Paraguayan FA (APF), Juan Angel Napout. A man who had never forgotten about Cabañas since the shooting and always invited him to games often as the guest of honour and had no objection to him training with the national team something which Cabañas did regularly in 2011.
By Ralph Hannah