Each weekend FIFA.com brings you a selection of well-known footballing figures set to celebrate their birthdays over the following seven days. However today, Sunday 7 February, we wanted to pay tribute to a man who very nearly did not live to blow out the 41 candles set to adorn his cake.
That man is former Argentina centre-back Fernando Caceres, who was the victim of a car-jacking in Buenos Aires province on 1 November 2009, during which he was very nearly killed by a bullet in his right eye. Yet the San Isidro-born ex-defender has made a miraculous recovery and harbours dreams of successful coaching career.
A touch of class
Since starting out at Argentinos Juniors, the same side which gave the world the likes of Diego Maradona, Fernando Redondo and Juan Roman Riquelme, Caceres stood out thanks to his indefatigable fighting spirit. By no means a one-dimensional hardman, El Negro’s classy performances soon earned him a move to Buenos Aires heavyweights River Plate, then coached by El Gran Capitán, Daniel Passarella, who had led his country to glory at the 1978 FIFA World Cup™ in Argentina.
After his time at Los Millonarios, Caceres' career took in spells at Real Zaragoza, Boca Juniors, Valencia, Celta de Vigo, Cordoba CF and Avellaneda outfit Independiente. The central defender finally hung up his boots at first club Argentinos, thus coming full circle after a 21-year career that featured, among other achievements, a 1993 Copa America success and appearances for La Albiceleste at USA 1994.
Confounding the odds
“I never had it easy, everything I achieved came thanks to hard work and sweat,” he said when announcing his retirement. It was that same determination which helped him complete his lengthy career without a single operation and has no doubt aided his rehabilitation since November’s terrible attack.
“I’m much better now, not even I can understand how I’ve been able to recover so well,” said El Negro, whose condition after the shooting was so critical doctors had feared the worst.
“I’m feeling better all the time, I’m rediscovering everything again. I need help to walk, but even that is a huge step forward,” added Caceres from the rehabilitation centre where he is based, though he intends to spend his birthday weekend at home with his family. “My next move is to complete my recovery, retake my coaching exams and prepare to take charge of a club,” said Caceres as the interview concluded.
All of which should give hope to the family and friends of Paraguayan goalgetter Salvador Cabanas, himself shot in the head just two weeks ago in Mexico, and to whom Caceres has sent a heartfelt letter of support.