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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Chilavert: It's not all about me
Jose Luis Chilavert is being touted as a president of the future
Chilavert is being touted as a president of the future

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"Paraguay is not just about Chilavert," said the country's inspirational captain and goalkeeper.

That may, officially, be true for now, but give Jose Luis Chilavert a few more years and he may have to think again.

A colourful political career looks set to follow Chilavert's retirement from the game.

And he is already being backed to become a future president of the country he represents with such pride.

Open Quote
The dream for all of us is to reach the final
Close Quote
Jose Luis Chilavert

To some a loose cannon, to others a revolutionary the kind of which South America has not seen since the days of Che Guevara.

On meeting "Chila", I'd go for the latter.

And, given the nature of Latin American politics, his populist appeal should stand him in good stead.

But, for now, Chilavert will have to make do with shaping the fortunes of Paraguay on the pitch .

Chilavert misses the friendly against England on 17 April with a shoulder injury, but he is acutely aware of his responsibilities at the World Cup.

"Paraguay have made history," Chilavert told BBC Sport Online.

"Just to reach two World Cups is difficult in itself, but this group of players have done a fantastic job.

"We can dream of having a good World Cup.

"Paraguay have got very good players. We've got some very experienced players and the dream for all of us is to reach the final.

Ricardo Tavarelli will stand in for Chilavert against South Africa
Ricardo Tavarelli will stand in for Chilavert against South Africa

"I would say to the people of Paraguay that there is no need to worry because we are going to enjoy a great World Cup."

Comforting words from the man who first shot to global prominence at the 1998 World Cup.

However, Paraguay's adoring fans have known for far longer that they can count on Chilavert, not just to keep out the world's finest strikers but to take charge of penalties and free-kicks.

The statisticians have attributed 55 goals to Chilavert, while he maintains that he has scored 65.

At least eight of them have come in international matches.

Whatever the figure, Chilavert is driven by a desire to become the first goalkeeper to score in a World Cup.

His sheer force of will carried Paraguay to the last 16 in 1998 and he led Strasbourg to a French Cup triumph last season.

But his iron-fist approach has also seen him throw punches the way of Faustino Asprilla and Diego Maradona.

And the Paraguay keeper's World Cup could be shorter than most.

Open Quote
It all depends on the first game - if we beat South Africa then everything is possible
Close Quote
Jose Luis Chilavert

He will be forced to sit out his side's opening World Cup game against South Africa after being handed a three-match ban for spitting at Brazil's Roberto Carlos in the qualifying stages.

Yet Chilavert remains unrepentant.

"I'm not the only star," he says. "There are other great players in Paraguay.

"I will support my understudy Ricardo Tavarelli and I have great confidence in him and the other players.

"Our main challenge is to go one better than we did in the last World Cup, which means going beyond the quarter-finals.

"We are a good enough team to do well and there are other good teams too, but we can do well ourselves.

"It all depends on the first game - if we beat South Africa then everything is possible after that."

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GROUP B
  P GD PTS
SPAIN 3 +5 9
PARAGUAY 3 0 4
SOUTH AFRICA 3 0 4
SLOVENIA 3 -5 0

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