The 13th of November 2013, just for a moment, seemed it was the 13th of February 1994 again. To be more specific, it seemed like the fifth minute of Real Zaragoza’s famous 6-3 win over FC Barcelona. Right then, Fernando Cáceres scored his first goal in a Zaragoza shirt and the Romareda exploded with excitement in celebration of the first of the six it would put past the league champions.
This time around, the reason was different, but the protagonist was the same. Fernando Cáceres, helped by his friends Alejandro Martínez and Chema Sanjuán, with all the determination that made him such a great centre-back, hauled himself out of his wheelchair and took the honorary kick-off in his own tribute match. Around him, 18,000 spectators were on their feet remembering the player who served the club from Aragon between 1993 and 1996, as were the members of the Real Zaragoza squad and the 'Amigos de Fernando Cáceres' team, formed by representatives of various Liga de Fútbol Profesional sides.
It was the precursor to the match, but it seemed like a final ovation. Cáceres was in La Romareda, in his stadium. It was a fitting end to the last few days surrounded by friends, fans and current footballers who admired him in his day and are now supporting the Argentinian in his recovery after he was shot on the 1st of November 2009. The money raised by the match and all the affection shown by those who attended are for the same cause.
Real Zaragoza’s first team, led by its manager Paco Herrera took on an outfit dubbed 'Amigos de Fernando Cáceres', with Diego Simeone and Víctor Fernández (Cáceres’ old coach at the club and at RC Celta de Vigo) pulling the strings from the bench and representatives of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional on the pitch. The occasion was of particular significance to those from Valencia CF (Javi Fuego, Oriol Romeu, Míchel Herrero and Paco Alcácer) and RC Celta de Vigo (Jonny, Jonathan Vila, Madinda, Carlos Bellvís, David Rodríguez and Mario Bermejo), two of the clubs served by Cáceres in Spain. Also, Córdoba CF presented the Argentinian with a memento before the match, as did the rest of the teams he played for, the Peña 10 de Mayo, the Federación de Peñas del Real Zaragoza and the Asociación de la Prensa Deportiva de Zaragoza.
Real Zaragoza beat the 'Amigos de Fernando Cáceres' 1-0, with a 19th minute goal from Roger Martí. Leo Franco, the winning team’s keeper, who played the second half for the all-star team, coming on for José Manuel Pinto, stopped a penalty from Víctor Rodríguez, his teammate. Coming from various points of Spain, Rubén Gracia 'Cani', Ángel Lafita, Fernando Soriano, Juanjo Camacho, David Generelo and Ander Herrera all made emotional contributions; all of them now ply their trade elsewhere, having learnt it in the city.
The night ended with another tremendous standing ovation for Fernando Cáceres, who from the Real Zaragoza box knew he was the man of the match, with a quality first touch, just like the old days. A whole stadium, a whole city, a whole profession, fallen at his feet.