Jobu’s got another Uruguayan you should meet.
If you’re a fan of Uruguayan fútbol (and I’m working hard to make you one), you know about Washington Sebastián “El Loco (The Madman)” Abreu. He is best known as the tall (6’4″) and lanky player with a knack for heading the ball into the net, the crazy guy with all the hair, the guy who chipped the game winning penalty in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal against Ghana, or maybe even as the future coach of the national squad. Whichever version of the cult legend you choose to walk away form this article believing, I thought you guys needed to meet him.
Here’s a quick story about the guy. When my nephew was born, my brother sent out a Facebook message to everyone introducing his son as Washington Sebastián “El Loco” Aston Stezano. It was a joke, as my nephew’s name is just Sebastián, but people thought my brother was serious. That’s how great Abreu is! People believed that my brother would name his son after the man! The jury is still out on whether or not my brother was really kidding or not, by the way. I’m not convinced.
Anywho, enough about my brother, let’s get to the man we came here to meet, Mr. Abreu. We’ll get to his career, both international and club, but the reason I’m writing about him today is because he recently decided to come home. After a career that has seen him play for over 20 club teams in six different countries, Abreu signed a two year deal to come back to Uruguay to play for perhaps the country’s most storied franchise (and my family’s favorite), Nacional. It will be Abreu’s fourth stint with the club, as he played there in 2001, 2003 and from 2004-2005. In all, he’s scored 42 goals in 60 games for Nacional, and, at 36 years of age, he’s hoping to add some more to that total over the next two seasons.
As I mentioned before, his club career has been quite the journey. It started way back in 1996, when he played for the Uruguayan team, Defensor as a 20-year old, and has led him to play in Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Israel and, most recently, Brazil. Have ball, will travel, right? As excited as I am to have him on my family’s favorite team (especially since I just might be in the house for one of his first games back when I’m in Uruguay in a couple weeks), I’ve never really seen El Loco play on the club level. As you can imagine, these games aren’t really played on American television, and I must admit i haven’t been as hard core about watching the games online as I should be. I got to know Loco on the international level.
His first national team cap was on July 17, 1996 against China. Since then, Abreu has gone on to gain 69 caps and has made appearances in two World Cups (2002, 2010) and three Copa Americas (1997, 2007, 2011). He is currently sixth all time in international goal scoring for the Uruguayan national team with 26 goals. While I got to see him play live (and score a goal) in a 2002 friendly against the USA at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. (check out some highlights), for me, two moments stand out in my mind that define his career. One was the header he nailed late in the game on November 18, 2009. Abreu was put in the game for the purposes of using his height to hammer home a goal, and he did just that. The goal gave Uruguay a 1-0 lead, and when the game ended tied, to the 2010 World Cup, where he had his other defining moment.
As many of you will remember, Uruguay played Ghana in the quarterfinals of that tournament. After a controversial hand ball and a ridiculous missed penalty by Ghana to close regulation, the game went into overtime. Neither team was able to get anything done in either half of the OT, so the match headed to penalty kicks. In that shootout, it all came down to El Loco, who lived up to his monicker, and made himself a legend, when he hit the penalty Panenka-style (a slow arching chip shot) and it sailed over a stunned Ghanian goalkeeper and into the net. It was a moment of pure genius that made him a hero, but it could have easily made him the biggest villain in Uruguay if he had messed it up or missed. That’s why he’s known as the madman. He nailed the chip perfectly, sending Uruguay to the semifinals for the first time in 40 years. They lost to the Netherlands there, and eventually to Germany in the third place game, but Abreu’s goal was one of the highlights of an amazing tournament for La Celeste.
That play, along with the talent and great personality he has shown throughout his playing days (you don’t get nicknamed “The Madman” for nothing), will make him one of those players that people will love forever. He’ll be one of those guys that will always have an open door to Uruguayan fans. Some say that he may, one day, end up as coach of the national team. Others say he should run for president some day. I think that may be a bit much, but he’s probably crazy enough to pull it off.
Anywho, that’s the Loco Abreu that I have come to know and love. One of the unofficial goals of my trip to Uruguay is to shake this man’s hand and possibly have a picture for the blog, but if I get to see him play in person I’ll be more than happy with that.
Abreu’s Quarterfinals Winning Kick (about 45 seconds in):
Featured image courtesy of: Bridget Wentworth/The Star-Ledger
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