Monday, January 25, 2010

Paraguay soccer star shot in Mexico Citybar

By Stephen Wade, Ap Sports Writer

MEXICO CITY – Salvador Cabanas, the top player on Paraguay's World Cup team, was shot in the head before dawn Monday in the bathroom of a bar in a well-off neighborhood in Mexico City.

The 29-year-old striker underwent surgery in which doctors failed to remove a bullet lodged in his skull. Dr. Ernesto Martinez, who was part of the surgical team, said "we cannot guarantee that his life is out of danger." He called the player's condition stable.

"Injuries like this are unpredictable," Martinez added. "We don't know what kind aftereffects he might have — perhaps none, or perhaps there will be many. We don't know right now."

Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Angel Mancera visited the popular nightspot "Bar Bar" and said from the crime scene robbery did not appear a motive "because nothing was taken."

Mancera later said a suspect had been identified from surveillance videos as a man with an accent from the northern state of Sinaloa — long considered the cradle of Mexico's drug lords — who traveled with at least one bodyguard.

However, Mancera said that as of yet "there is no indication of organized crime," a term Mexican officials use to refer to drug cartels.

Mancera said the suspect was known by the nickname "J.J." or "El Modelo" ("The Model") and was being sought. He said one of the suspect's associates was seen talking to a Cuban woman who worked at the club, and one possible motive was "there could have been some kind of trouble" over the woman. Cabanas was in the bar with his wife.

He said a cleaning employee said there had been "an argument, a strong exchange of words" between two men in the bathroom before a shot was fired.

The videos showed that club employees did not attempt to stop the suspects as they hurriedly left the bar and got in a car.

"Nobody did anything to stop them," Mancera said.

Cabanas plays for the Mexico City team America. Club president Michel Bauer said Cabanas was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and was speaking as he awaited surgery.

"He was a bit confused and didn't know what had happened and he was asking where they were taking him and why they were taking him there," Bauer told Mexico television Televisa.

Bauer said Cabanas' wife told him the two were preparing to leave the bar when the shooting took place in a bathroom. His wife said she found her husband on the bathroom floor.

Mancera said four people were being questioned — two security guards, the bar manager and Cabanas' brother-in-law. He said the brother-in-law volunteered to testify.

Authorities in the city's leafy Alvaro Obregon borough ordered the bar closed Monday, saying it had failed to provide adequate security for its customers based on the shooting.

Cabanas has played in the Mexico league since 2003 and is the highest-profile player on his national team. Paraguay will face Italy, New Zealand and Slovakia in the group stage of the World Cup in South Africa in June.

Cabanas has 125 goals in 218 games in Mexico and played last weekend in America's 2-0 loss to Morelia. This month he drew attention from Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who expressed interest in adding Cabanas to his club in England's Premier League.

"Club America is deeply sorry for what happened to our beloved Salvador Cabanas and shows its total support for his family and loved ones," the Mexican team said in a statement.

Paraguayan Football Association president Juan Angel Napout said a doctor would travel to Mexico to assist Cabanas.

"We are praying for him," Napout said.

Cabanas was honored as South America's soccer player of the year in 2007 by Uruguay's El Pais newspaper, the only time a player in Mexico has won the award.

There is a long history of violence involving Latin American soccer players. Most prominently, Colombia defender Andres Escobar was shot and killed in his home country days after his own-goal helped the United States defeat the Colombians 2-1 in a major upset at the 1994 World Cup.

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