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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

World Cup Cult Heroes: Jose Luis Chilavert

The National's Gary Meenaghan looks back at the figures of World Cups past who, while not necessarily the greatest the game has ever seen, were among football's most interesting characters.
Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National
Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National

In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, The National’s Gary Meenaghan looks back at the figures of World Cups past who, while not necessarily the greatest the game has ever seen, were among football’s most interesting characters.

JOSE LUIS CHILAVERT

Jose Luis Chilavert was not only a celebrated, decorated goalkeeper; he was also a free-kick specialist. The Paraguayan scored more times internationally than any other goalkeeper (8) and is the second highest-scoring shot-stopper in history with 62 goals, behind Brazil’s Rogerio Ceni. He won league titles in Paraguay, Argentina, France and Uruguay and also lifted the Copa Libertadores in 1994 with Velez Sarsfield.

Chilavert from the Halfway Line

Arguably Chilavert’s greatest goal came against River Plate when he scored from inside his own half. With the opposing goalkeeper off his line and arguing with the referee, Chilavert spotted an opportunity and went for it. “My teammates were yelling ‘Stop, Stop!’ but I screamed ‘Get out of the way, I’m going to whack it!’” he later recalled to Fifa.com. “I told the ref to duck and everything worked like a charm. I always say that an angel put that one in for me.”

Temper, Temper

Chilavert was a notorious hothead. In 1997, during a match with Colombia, he was sent off for an incident involving Faustino Asprilla. As he left the pitch, he punched the Colombian striker on the nose. Four years later, he shamelessly spat in the face of Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos during a post-match TV interview. He was banned for four matches, including the first two of Paraguay’s 2002 World Cup campaign.

Mr Morality

Body: The Paraguayan was a walking contradiction. While his temper flared on the field, off it he appeared an ethical and open-eyed citizen of the world with political aspirations. He refused to compete in the 2004 Copa America on home soil because he believed his country should invest money in education rather than football and before the 1998 World Cup, when he was asked if he was feeling the pressure, he replied: “Pressure? This is just a football match. When you do not know how to feed your children, that is pressure.”

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