From learning to use the elbows with Pelé to the idol of Boca and an expert provocateur in the Superclassics: the story of Roberto Cabañas

Paraguayan goal shout with the Boca shirt. Celebrate with him a young Diego Latorre
Paraguayan goal shout with the Boca shirt. Celebrate with him a young Diego Latorre

When the January 9, 2017 passed away at 55 years of a cardiorespiratory arrest, one of his best friends, the also former Paraguayan footballer Julio César Romero, described it as "hero" and of "full player, what, today would be worth 50 million dollars"

Roberto Cabañas he became one of the greatest idols in modern history of Mouth, but it was also in the Brest of France and in the America de Cali, and was part of the last selected guaraní on winning a title: he 1979 South American.

Was born in the city of Pillar, in the department of Ñeembucú, he April 14, 1961 and from a very young age he stood out for his strong temperament, his colorful plays and his acrobatics in the celebrations of the many goals he converted (215 in the various clubs in which he played a total of 330 games), and for that reason he was nicknamed as The Magician of Pilar, although it was also known as The Panther.

After a quick debut at 17 years in Cerro Porteño, migrated to New York Cosmos, shortly after he retired Pele. There played four seasons, between 1980 and 1984, and coincided with others cracks of the size of Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto Torres, Johan Neeskens, and Giorgio Chinaglia.

"I did not enjoy the Cosmos as much because at that time I had a great financial need with my family ”, recalled years later on his visit to the program Pure chemistry of ESPN. "It was not the team that I wanted to go to because I really felt soccer, and that was with a synthetic field, and people did not know soccer. Pelé was promoting our matches And there I found that Europeans were much more professional. We Latinos are more jokes. At that time Maradona was worth a million dollars and they paid 850,000 for me because they didn't know much who I was, that I was 18 years old. They were looking for young blood to replace the idols, but when they left they did not want to go see anyone else. "

Such was the distance from the great European stars, that over the years he thought that they would not even remember him. But something unexpected happened to him when he suffered an injury playing for him. Olympique de Lyon: He was accompanied to Germany by the campus doctor, in search of solutions. “Someone called me when they found out I was there, but didn't know who it was. I went to the locker room they told me and I saw a boy being massaged lying on his stomach on a stretcher and hardly a towel on his head. When I told him it was already there, he turned around and was Beckenbauer. He remembered me for a taco goal I made ”. "Only a madman like you can score a goal like this", he commented.

Also the moments shared with Pele, who no longer played but promoted the matches of the Cosmos, they served him for the future. "One day I asked him how he protected himself from the blows and he told me that It was very easy. Got up and he showed me how he did with his arm and elbow, and over time I started to do it with my colleagues. The forwards are all the time receiving kicks, punches and shoves. Football is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"

With the Cosmos won 9 titles and in 1984 was transferred to America de Cali when I was a player with much more experience. He wore a bandage on his arm as a cabal, and everyone admired his 1000 to 1200 abs daily, that kept him in an enviable athletic state.

In Cali he lived a golden age, and he joined the team led by the doctor Gabriel Ochoa Uribe, a disciple of Carlos Bilardo, who in previous years had been the protagonist of two editions of the Libertadores Cup with the rival of the city, Deportivo Cali. That America that had stars like the Argentines Julio Falcioni, Ricardo Gareca and Carlos Ischia, the Paraguayan Juan Manuel Battaglia and the Colombians Willington Ortiz and Anthony De Avila broke all records with five consecutive local titles and three consecutive finals of the Libertadores Cup in times of great influence in the soccer of the drug cartels.

Cabañas would win the Colombian titles of 1985 and 1986 and he would become one of the great idols thanks to its spectacular chilenas, which he came to call Cabañuelas.

Your pass to Brest In the season 1987/88 he had soap opera trims and, when he joined, he was the figure of the team that got the promotion to the Ligue 1. His good performances made him traded in 1990/91 to Olympique de Lyon, although before he experienced a strange situation when they wanted to bribe him to give up playing against the powerful Olympique de Marseille, who was about to win the French league.

"With the Brest we were going to play against him Olympique of Papin, Cantona, Francescoli, Mozer and Amorós. It was a great team and he was fighting for the title. I came from scoring a goal for Bordeaux and a man who I think was Argentine approached me, Daniel Santos, and called me at his hotel. He said he was speaking to me from the president of Olympique de Marseille, Bernard Tapie (powerful businessman who was later arrested for corruption). I was proposing that I be injured in 10-15 minutes. I was surprised, but I was not offended, because that is in the dignity of each one, but I was worried from that moment because I thought that if the next day I scored a goal against or whatever, the doubt would remain, " he related years later.

In his heyday he did between 1,000 and 12,000 crunches per day to keep fit
In his heyday he did between 1,000 and 12,000 crunches per day to keep fit

"I told the sports director what happened, he contacted the president Francois Yvinec, and I warned him that the next day They were going to come with a black briefcase at 10 in the morning, and I told him there were three options: Receive the money and distribute it among all, not receive it, or do not play for anything that happens. At the agreed time they came, all in suits, the Brest put microphones under my clothes, but they were also aware and, although I was talking about money, did not enter the game and nothing happened. We were playing the descent. After 10 minutes we lost 1-0, tie to the 36 and At 43 of the second I made a free kick goal and we won 2-1. I told the leaders that this happened because they gave me all the confidence to play. "

Those performances led him to Olympique de Lyon the following year, where he had an acceptable performance, and which generated the attention of Mouth, who hired him for the season 1991/92. Cabañas came to the ideal club for him and he understood it at once. "I came to Boca when I was 31 years old. It was not my best football moment, and how the club was in need of titlesI never did one Cabañuela. I dedicated myself to score, to run to the adversaries. In Argentina people met a warrior, not the one who played in Colombia or France. I came with passion inside and I just wanted Boca to be championHe later recognized.

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He feeling with the swollen of Mouth it was absolute. His pre-match statements, especially before the classics with River, generated rispideces and confrontations, especially with Hernán Díaz and Sergio Berti. In fact, he went undefeated in the Superclassic and went on to win the Opening 1992 and the Master Cup, with the Uruguayan Oscar Washington Tabárez like DT.

"Before the games, I trembled on the mike because I didn't know what to expectI was afraid, and that's why I played provoking, with their nervousness. I liked to come, have a coffee in the locker room and go out and look at the rostrum because that atmosphere that yelled at me and encouraged me, enlarged me, did me good. It was all inside, quietly ”, he remembered. However, its link to Mouth and against River started long before putting on the shirt blue and gold: "I will never forget when we were in América de Cali and Carlos Ischia went out to play the final of the Copa Libertadores in front of River with the Boca shirt"He repeated.

Their rivalry grew from the first Super classic for himto the 1992 Gold Cup, as soon as he had arrived, when he recorded one of his celebrations his traditional dance. With the xeneizes juice 60 matches in local and 7 international tournaments, with 18 goals.

He was tricky, a vendor, he used his body well to protect the ball and in order to be useful for the team he agreed to play in other positions when the Uruguayan arrived Sergio Martinez and Alberto Acosta. But with the arrival of César Luis Menotti no longer had space and in 1994 migrated to Barcelona from Ecuador, although he always remained linked to Boca even after retiring from football.

"Astrada and Hernán Díaz will be my children all my life"He used to say, always provocative, or"I want Boca players to play Boca and not complain like the hens"

When the decline in River to the National B in 2011 said "It made me happy”, And when he lost in that tournament against Boca Unidos de Corrientes, held that "River is a great institution but small as a team. It has no hierarchy players. Boca Unidos beat him with the name. They get scared when they hear the word Boca ”, and he used to point out that“we bosteros are 75% of the country and then comes the rest"

Cabañas was champion with Boca del Apertura 1992, with Oscar Washington Tabárez as coach
Cabañas was champion with Boca del Apertura 1992, with Oscar Washington Tabárez as coach

After a season in Ecuadorfleetingly returned to Mouth to land on Paraguayan freedom in 1996, although in that same year he returned to Colombia to play in Independent of Medellín and announce his retirement from football there. However, in 2000 he returned with 39 years, already with some baldness and with some overweight, to play in the Real Cartagena.

Some say that this return was due to having lost a bet with a leader, others to a very bad economic situation and the most sensationalists talk about skirt issues, but it was never clarified.

With the Paraguayan team, he won the South American tournament (now Copa América) in 1979, which was the last official title won to date by the Redhead, integrating a remembered team that had great players like Eugenio and Milcíades Morelthe archer Robert Cat Fernandez, Carlos Kiese, his friend Julio César Romero, Alicio Solalinde and Hugo Ricardo Talavera.

He had the opportunity to play with several members of that selection the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, in which scored two goals for Belgium in the group stage that served to reach the round of 16, where they were eliminated at the stadium Aztec, by England which would later fall into fourth against Argentina by Diego Maradona.

After the defeat of 3-0 before the British, the players were accused of not doing their best. "They said that because it was spread that some of us had reserved return tickets after that game, in a travel agency, but everyone did it, and if we won we would cancel it," he defended himself. For the next two World Cups, the Italy 1990 and United States 1994, Paraguay failed to qualify and after this last disappointment, decided to withdraw from the national team.

In the qualifying round for the 1994 World Cup, when facing the National Team twice Alfio Basile, his confrontation with Ruggeri, which already came from the times of that final of 1986 Copa Libertadores between River and América de Cali. So, he described the Argentinean as "tortoise”In the hours before and on the day of the match at the stadium Defenders of Chaco, in Assumption, anticipated that he would be expelled. "I told him before the game to be careful with me because I was going to make him send off. He was very strong and abrupt, and I was skillful. There was a lot of difference. " Anyway, Argentina won 3-1.

The forward won the 1979 South American with the Paraguayan team
The forward won the 1979 South American with the Paraguayan team

Upon retiring, he returned to America de Cali as a field assistant to Gerardo González Aquino (also ex América de Cali) in 2006, and when February 2007 they threw this one out, Cabañas took command along with Alex Escobar (another former player), as an assistant, but it was a reckless decision because he had no experience and had to leave office after 12 games in a very bad campaign which included a 6-0 adverse win Tolima Sports. "I did not accept anything, I thought I knew everythingHe later admitted.

"The mystery of football is having good players and working a little, because unfortunately the coach does not play, the players are the players. Only we, the players, know how a locker room is handled and we know when a player wakes up badly or when to be a psychologist with someone, who to take care of, who to pat on the back to motivate him ”, he used to repeat.

After his sudden death at dawn in Asunción, there was dismay in Pilar, his birth city. Everyone knew Cabañas well, who silently took care since the mid-eighties that no child will be missing a toy on Three Kings Day, and the arrival of a special shipment for that purpose was traditional. His ex-wife and four children flew especially from Colombia to fire him.

"A hero left, because he was part of the last Paraguayan team that won a title," said his friend and compadre. Romerito when he found out about his death. "He had well-developed athletic conditions, skill, agility, jumping, starting. He was a high-level player. "

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