The Ogre breathes fresh life into Argentine football

February 18, 2009

Weighing in at nearly 100 kilos is the man who has brought some badly-needed charisma to Argentine domestic football.

Popularly-known as the Ogre, because of a supposed likeness to the animated film character Shrek, Cristian Fabbiani has become a cult figure for his ability to alternate moments of brilliance with others of near comedy (such as a miss for Newell’s Old Boys that became cult viewing on YouTube).

The fact that he is somewhat chubby for a footballer adds to the fascination.

According to his new club River Plate, Fabbiani has 96 kilos spread around his 1.89 metre frame. However, after joining River from Newell’s Old Boys, coach Nestor Gorosito said he was initially three kilos overweight, bringing him close to the impressive three-figure mark.

Unlike Brazil’s Ronaldo, who has often been sensitive to suggestions that he carries a few kilos too many, Fabbiani uses his physique to bulldoze past opponents and laughs off suggestions that he is fat.

“When they say I’m fat, it makes me play better,” he said. “I try not to go back to my mum’s house because there’s always a lot of food and it’s too much temptation.”

His directness is a refreshing break in a country where players take the bland statement of the obvious to new extremes and where their banalities are eagerly snapped up by two 24-hour sports channels with too much airtime to fill.

Now 25, Fabbiani has only recently made an impact and has taken a roundabout route to his new-found popularity. He began with Lanus, a club from the sprawling southern suburbs of Buenos Aires, moved to Palestino in Chile, then popped up in Israel with Beitar Jerusalem and also found time to help Cluj win the Romanian league.

He has already made two substitute appearances for River, making an immediate impact each time. Against Paraguay’s Nacional in the Libertadores Cup, he set up an injury-time winner and scored the decisive goal himself in the 2-1 league win over Rosario Central on Sunday.

Fabbiani finds himself in the same boat as Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabanas, who has a prolific scoring record for America despite repeatedly being labelled fat.

Former Velez Sarsfield forward Omar Asad said that players who are apparently overweight should not always be written off. “Each player has his own characteristics,” he wrote in the Clarin newspaper.

“I played football well weighing over 90 kilos. My ideal weight was 93. At that weight, I played in the World Club championship final against AC Milan in Japan: I scored an unforgettable goal and we won the title.”

PHOTO (UPPER): Cristian Fabbiani of Argentina’s River Plate waves to fans after he scored against Paraguay’s Nacional during their Copa Libertadores soccer match in Buenos Aires February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

PHOTO (LOWER): Actor Mike Myers poses with “Shrek” at the American International Toy fair in New York February 12, 2001. RFS/RCS

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Micky Quinn is the classic English example, slightly rotund but he ‘knew where the goal was’. It’s good to see the tug-o-war over Fabbiani’s playing future in break didn’t diminsh his apetite!

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