Cabanas returns despite bullet in his skull

Cabanas returns despite bullet in his skull

Published Jan. 21, 2012 1:18 a.m. ET

Two years after he was shot in the head at close range in a Mexico City bar, former Paraguay and Club America striker Salvador Cabanas made a comeback on Friday with Paraguayan third-division club 12 de Octobre.

Cabanas started the friendly and played for 15 minutes before going to the bench.

''My dream has been realized,'' Cabanas said at the match in his native town of Itaugua, located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital Asuncion.

''Last night I almost could not sleep,'' he added.


Club president Luis Salinas said he is seeking approval from Cabanas' doctors and has contacted Mexico club America about a transfer.

''We talked with the officials at America by telephone,'' Salinas said. ''Apparently there will be no transfer fee, but we have to do the paperwork.''

Cabanas, who was playing with America at the time, miraculously survived the shooting on Jan. 25, 2010, in a bar in an upscale neighborhood in the Mexican capital. A bullet fragment is still lodged in his skull, which doctors decided was too risky to remove.

He was shot, apparently in an argument about football. His alleged assailant, Jose Jorge Balderas, was arrested a year after the shooting and is reported to have ties to Mexico's drug trade.

As part of his therapy, the 31-year-old has trained with the national team, but few expected him to return to the pitch - certainly not at his previous level. Before the shooting he was a favorite to lead Paraguay in the 2010 World Cup.

''He's OK from the neurological point of view, although the bullet is still in his skull,'' Dr. Luis Greinner told The Associated Press. ''The report from the clinic in Argentina where he was examined shows the bullet has not moved.''

Cabanas, who has limited vision in his left eye, did not do much while he was on the field. Part of this was because he was well marked by the other team, and because the temperature was 40 C (100F). But he seemed sure of himself and moved reasonably well on the field, but acknowledged he needs to be in better shape.

The club begins play in April in the third division.

''Salvador lacks conditioning,'' 12 de Octobre coach Rolando Chilavert said. ''But we are happy to have him back because it is a miracle.''