Cree en grande.

Salvador Cabañas sells bread after losing everything


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Salvador Cabañas sells bread after losing everything

Former player for club América in Mexico and the Paraguayan national team, Salvador Cabanas helps his parents in the family bakery to survive, having lost everything from a gunshot at a nightclub in Mexico four years ago.

"I will keep going forward," he repeats to an AFP journalist during an interview, sitting under the shade of a grapefruit tree.

He controls the kneading of the flour in a shed that is behind the modest house where he was born, in Itaguá, 30 km from Asuncion.

He is separated from his wife, Mary Lorgia Alonso, who has care of their children James (13) and Mia Ivonne (9) in a luxurious mansion in Asuncion, valued at approximately $5,000,000.

He says his things were taken from him while he was recuperating, saying there was collusion between his representative and his lawyer.

The residence is in her name, he says.

"As time goes on I am realizing a lot of things," observes Cabañas alluding to alleged shady dealings of his former manager José González and his own ex-wife. "Even the lawyer went over to their team," he said.

Salvador gets up at four in the morning to distribute bread in a van to customers of his father, Dionisio, and his mother, Mrs. Basilia Cabañas.

"We distribute the bread around Itaguá, Ypacarai, San Bernardino (outside the capital). I like the work. People recognize me and ask me...about football of course. I tell them that I am happy."

Four years later

January 25 was the four year anniversary of that fateful moment in the career of skilled forward.

He was the star of América, the millionaire club of Mexico. He was the leading scorer at the Copa Libertadores for two consecutive years and was six months away from the 2010 South African World Cup. His national team, Paraguay, breezed through South American qualifying and reached the quarterfinals of the WC with Argentine Gerardo Martino as coach, now at FC Barcelona.

"When it happened (the gunshot wound) I had signed a pre-contract in the amount of $1,700,000 for a transfer to Europe. They told me that my destination would be Manchester United. América held on to me. They gave me an apartment in Acapulco and another in Cancun. My salary was doubled..." he says.

He said that he was living a dream when his life was turned upside down and he was hanging by a thread during his 23 days in intensive care in a hospital in Mexico City.

"My grandmother Basilia told me I was going to keep moving forward," he said.

Like Segismundo, thinking about his life and his fortune in "Life is a Dream" by Calderon de La Barca, Cabañas can't explain the turn his life took, like that character of the Spanish writer who wonders if life is an illusion, a shadow, fiction or a dream.

"Well, here I am, trying to recover. I have great faith despite losing everything," he remarks seriously.

"Double victim"

His father, Dionisio, also a former professional football player as a forward like his son, speaks in the native language of Paraguay, Guarani: "My son was a victim twice."

"His professional life was taken away in the prime of his career and they took advantage of him, his own wife, his representative and his lawyer," says his father sadly.

Cabañas responds gesturing with his hands: "They made me sign with digital printing (finger)" while he didn't have all his faculties. He says that América had promised compensation but the money never came. "She (his wife) said that it's all gone (the money)." But he says he is willing to face a legal battle. Meanwhile, he works as a baker and a footballer.

He is back on his home team, club 12 de Octubre in Itaguá, who returned to the first division this year. The club was two divisions down when Salvador reappeared two years ago as a balm to give new life to the club. His return to stadiums drew thousands of fans and onlookers who chanted his name incessantly.

Touching heaven

On his recent past he says he tries to forget about it and to look forward. His attacker, drug trafficker Jorge Balderas Garza, responds: "I don't know. I'm not interested."

The day of the tragedy Salvador says he touched heaven: "God blessed me to live again. I spoke with grandmother (now deceased). I told her that my family was not going to lack anything. With that in mind I built this bakery."

Asked what he remembers most of his playing in football stadiums he responds that he will never forget the Brazilians who nicknamed him "Gordinho" (chubby).

There was a special reason. América knocked Flamengo out of the Copa Libertadores in the mighty Maracana stadium itself with a Cabañas hat-trick.

"Later I played for the Paraguayan national team. We beat Brazil in Asuncion and I scored. Before the rematch in Brazil, the media published: 'Beware the Gordinho'. That was funny," he says.

Asked what he will do after hanging up his boots, he revealed that he has offers to be a television sports commentator. "I have local offer and one with a North American channel. 

Asked whether any State authority or someone from the Paraguayan Football Association visits him, he says no. "They seem to want to know me only when they need me," he concludes wryly.


Photo: AFP