Monday, February 23, 2009

The Fattest Footballer In The World: Can The Ogre Save River Plate? - Clack

30 minutes remaining, River Plate 1-0 down at Rosario Central on the 2nd weekend of the Argentine championship, and the signal is given to the man known as the Ogre to remove his large posterior from the bench, and commence warming up, or wobbling up rather. Cue loud cheers and collective donning of shrek masks from the 5000 traveling fans. The 24 year old with a figure more akin to a middle-aged ex pro turning out for a charity match is about to make his league debut for River.

“I’m a few kilos over the ideal”, he said before signing the week before, a slight under-statement, as demonstrated when he stripped off for his live medical; a torso that would make Neil Ruddock look like Stan Laurel if he stood beside him. Christian Fabbiani has always lacked shape, even when he was in-shape, but 6 months of inactivity due to a dispute over pay with former club Newell's Old Boys has converted muscle into yet more flab to the point where the Ogre must surely now be the fattest professional footballer in the world?

His on-off transfer from Newells to River Plate was the summer soap opera of Argentine soccer. Refusing to take part in pre-season training, the striker posed, Paul Ince-like, in the white and red shirt of River while still a Newells player. He explained that he had stood as a 10-year-old on he terraces of the club he wished to join, and how, in June 2008, while still a player at Cluj (with whom he won the Romanian league title), had been amongst the hundreds of River fans celebrating their 'closing' championship victory on the pitch. Instant kudos from the supporters; not only did their prospective new signing speak like one of their bare-topped 'barras' who fill one end of the Monumental stadium every home game, but he looked like one aswell, complete with beer belly...

There was just one snag for Fabbiani though. Debt-ridden River Plate couldn't afford to buy him. The economic recession has dictated the end of the usual sale of young players, or percentage stakes in young players, to European clubs, and therefore, no funds for new signings, no matter how badly they want to join.

Two weeks ago, on the eve of this year's 'closing' Championship, disillusion hung over the Monumental. The team had finished a humiliating bottom of the 'opening'* Championship that ran from last August to December, and just to rub salt in the wounds, everything was going smoothly at big city rivals, Boca Juniors, where legendary manager Carlos Bianchi was returning as technical director of the 'opening' champions to oversee a squad, containing the likes of Argentine internationals Riquelme, Palacios, Palermo and Battalliga, exactly the kind of characters and fan favourites, River lacked.

In two pre-season friendlies with Boca (the word friendly being used in the loosest possible sense here, as they were sell-out showpiece matches held in Mar Del Plata and Mendoza. part of a summer mini-tournament, screened live across the country), River's faceless players not only lost, but were comprehensively outplayed on both occasions.

Something had to be done to breathe new life into the stagnant River, and right on transfer deadline day, a delighted Fabbiani received the call he had been wishing for all summer, just as he was about to undergo, literally, a medical for Velez Sarsfield. The Ogre apologised to the Velez doctors and staff and asked to leave the clinic. "Well, if his heart wasn't in it,then it's better that he told us now than after 15 games", said a very understaning Velez manager and everything was arranged with River the same day..

Shrek fever began on the very day of his signing; children and adults turning up to Fabbiani's official presentation with their faces painted ogre green. One ex-River player, sitting in the canteen, remarked how it had taken him ten years to become a crowd favourite, but the new lad was already an idol without even playing a a game.

Again, Fabbiani said all the right things. "They won't kick Falcao anymore, now I'm alongside him", a reference to some tasty treatment the River Plate player had received from San Lorenzo players in the pre-season mini-tournament, part of a long running feud, although it is probably little Buononotte, 'the dwarf', who will probably benefit the most from having Fabbiani's physical presence. What more balanced attacking partnership could you ask for? The fattest player in the world alongside the shortest player in the world! However, the truth is that there is actually a lot more to Fabbiani's game than just putting his weight about. He has a lot of skill and an excellent finish.

Then, in one of those moments when football does imitate hollywood scripts, the shrek saga part 1 had a perfect happy ending. Just a few minutes after Fabbiani came on in the match at Rosario last sunday, River equalised through Martin Galmarini, nipping in with a header from a free kick while the defenders were all watching Fabbiani. Ten minutes later, the Ogre himself, 30 metres out and with no run up, lashed the ball into the back of the net to score the winning goal. Out came the shrek masks again, the commentators and fans went into a frenzy, and Fabbiani collapsed flat on his back, Charlie George style.

Fabbiani's goal here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpyWNfHTJBQ

Fatso' and 'Monster', were the headlines the next day (the latter a play on words, eg. Gardel is a 'monster' of the Tango.) Comparisons with Ference Puskas and the Brazilian Ronaldo were naturally drawn, one newspaper putting together a list of the fattest players of all-time, placing Fabbiani at the top, and a psychologist wrote about how Fabbiani gave hope to all weight-challenged kids.

"A lot of kilos and a lot heart", said Clarin, and just to round off a perfect weekend for River fans, rivals Boca lost 2-0 at home to Newells. Contrary to what Tina Turner sang at her concert in the club's Monumental stadium, River Plate do need another hero. The Ogre could be just the job.

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*Since 1992, the Argentina Primera league (1st Division) has been divided into two championships: The apertura (opening) which runs from August to December, and Clausura (closing) which runs from February to June, with seperate winners for each tournament. The 20 teams play one another once in each tournament. A return to a one-season championship has been recently suggested by AFA president Julio Grondona, but the majority of the 1st Division clubs are unlikely to vote for a change as the current format gives more clubs a chance of winning, or at least challenging for the Championship. Relegation is decided by a complicated system of point averages over the previous three seasons.

21 comments:

offsideintahiti said...

Great stuff, Clack, muchas gracias.

I saw highlights of a recent River game (can't remember who they were playing but they were wearing their black strip), and he really looks like the fattest ogre in the game, but probably also the fastest... Pretty efficient, anyway, and it's always nice to have a bit of panto at the games, non?

What's the business with him dusting himself down for his goal celebration?

And another question (which I've asked a couple of times on GU, but Marcela's threads unfortunately get wiped from the main page so quickly...). Who is this Cesar Delgado who just turned up at Lyon? I saw him have a great game against OM in the Coupe de France a few weeks ago, but I'd never heard of him before. Any background? He only played a few minutes tonight against Barça, but he looks very accomplished technically.

And finally, congratulations to nuestros amigos Argentinos for their convincing and deserved victory in Marseille.

Hasta bientôt!

pipita said...

Really enjoyed your article Neil. Fat as he maybe, the truth is that Fabbiani has injected the essencial level of confidence that River needed after the disastrous performance in the previous tournament. Granted, their is a bit of exaggerated hype going on at the moment, but the few minutes he's played, in River's last three games, he has provided two assists and that golazo against Cemtral that you posted. It's funny but his uncle Oscar Fabbiani, who played for some second division team in Argentina and was a huge success in Chile were he even played for the national team, had signed for River in the late seventies but for some reason the deal broke down and he went to play for Tampa Bay instead, with the great Rodney Marsh. As far as I remember, he was very stocky as well, but not as tall and not that fat...

Mon ami Offie

Was convinced I'd answered your question about Delgado before, somewhere.Here goes again "el Chelito" played for Rosario Central and in Mexico , with considerable success, and even played for the argentine national team before WC 2006. He is quite a bit of an old fashioned right winger with a good shot
By the way, I particularly dislike River's black change strip which they used last sunday

guitou said...

splendid Clack,
Pipita,
offie can be tricky occasionally, that was just an excuse to get you back on pseuds-
Regarding Delgado who did well with Cruz Azul, he had a hard time to fit in with Lyon at the beginning of the season-With hard work and perseverance,he is now regarded as regular.

pipita said...

Thanks for alerting me about this Guitou, it's been so long since I last visited this den that I forgot all about Offie's crafty tricks :)) The reason he's so interested in Delgado surely has to do with the fact that his neighbour is a "canalla", rosario central fan, whom I bet supplies him with some sort of favours, probably a nice juicy argentine steak or to be more preceise, professor GG's favorite, bife de chorizo. I hope he makes up for this with a decent supply of pakalolo :))
Good to hear Delgado has finally established himself in Lyon, same hapened with Cavenaghi, who for the last year has been scoring regularly for Bordeaux

offsideintahiti said...

Yeah, well, I wish I could trick everybody else back in here. This piece deserves a wider audience, where is everyone?

Pipita, Cavenaghi was very nearly the hero again yesterday. Bordeaux travelled to Galatasaray (0-0 in the first leg), went one up after 12 seconds, 3-1 down in the second half, then clawed their way back, Cavenaghi scoring the (scrappy, toe-poked) equalizer for 3-3 and qualification on away goals.

Only for another Fernando (Menegazzo) to "clear" a last minute corner meakly and straight down the middle. Rightly banged in, and 4-3 to Galatasaray in the end. Can't trust Brazilians, can you?

offsideintahiti said...

Having said that, the audience of three here is quality, non?

pipita said...

Quality indeed mon ami offie. By the way, the author of this article has his reasons for not appearing on his own blog: he's currently in Rio for the mythic carnaval carioca......
Yeah, heard all about Cavenaghi's goal against the turks, and actually managed to see his last minute headed equalizer at St Etienne last weekend. I rate him highly. It's funny, when I first saw him play at River I thought he was a fatty, like Fabbiani, who would not achieve much. Proved me wrong, for sure

clack said...

Tudo bon?

I am indeed at the Rio carnival, where the most stunning women from a distance turn out to be men!

Thanks for all the comments.

So, another win for River and another defeat for Boca last weekend. River joint top now - who would´ve thought that on the eve of the season?

Could River go from finishing top then bottom then top again?

Seriously, Pipita, are they championship contenders now?

Funny old game football, innit, and even funnier old game in Argentina, where the league format allows fortunes to change so quickly.

PS Besides the typos and some clumsy wording in parts (I put the unedited version up by mistake), I think there could be an error - was it 6 months without playing? - I´m sure I read that somewhere, or was it only pre-season Fabbiani missed?

Is there any way of editing pieces on Pseud´s once the piece has gone up?

offsideintahiti said...

clack,

gettoutahere and go watch the samba! Oh, and bring back a round of caïpirinha while you're at it.

munni said...

Ah, but that's one of the great things about football compared to other sports, brains and skill count for more than having a certain body type*. And not looking like a typical professional athlete contributes to the unlikely everyman-hero thing, which perhaps is sentimentality more than hype.

Enjoy the carnaval, Clack.

*I've been watching too much basketball recently, and getting annoyed that being freakishly tall seems to be a greater asset than having skills.

guitou said...

munni,
This is the reason why, I always thought Peter Crouch had a better chance at basketball :)

bluedaddy said...

Really enjoyed this clack. Any more heroics from the big man and I'm expecting Marcela MYA to cover him over at you know where. Surely even Man Utd and Liverpool fans cant start their usual blather on that thread.

It's a cracking goal, though they certainly gave him plenty of room to manoeuvre (how hard is that word to spell?).

I too would like to know about that dusting down celebration.

Am still on a high from scoring a running volley last night. It appears not shutting your eyes is a big help on such occasions.

offsideintahiti said...

yœutœbe, s'il vous plaît.

pipita said...

Bledad

Fabbiani's dusting down celebration after scoring against Rosaio central (team which Offie's argie neighbour supports)was directed at the Rosario fans because last year he played for their hated city rivals Newels old Boys. The latter are nicknamed "the leprous" so "the ogre" is like whiping the lepra off his body

bluedaddy said...

Cheers pipita. You guys are crackers - that's why I love reading about matters argentine.

Offie - if oeunly.

offsideintahiti said...

BD, nœvermind.

Hey, I just saw Gabriel Batistuta on the sports news, playing... Polo. Very strange. And I'm sure there's a joke in there, but I haven't had my third coffee yet.

lepunmaker said...

Baptiste, ou t'as vu Paulo?

offsideintahiti said...

*ouch*

guitou said...

"ouch" twice ,
your rating about Delgado was confirmed last night
offie. He came of the bench late but he took a great save from Butelle LOSC keeper to stop him from scoring from 30 yards-

pipita said...

Yeah, Batistuta lived as a kid in some rural town so he must know a thing or two about horse riding. Not sure about his polo skills though, but he did make sure to play in a team with the current maradona of polo, Adolfo Cambiaso.......

Atahualpa Greengrass said...

Clack: "the most stunning women from a distance turn out to be men!"

That's what they always say about our Ingrid.

I'd love to see that fat, ugly Argie bugger line up against our fat, ugly right-back - Shrekomania!

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