‘We are not robots’ – El Morro Garcia’s tragic passing shows need to care for players’ minds and bodies
The former Uruguay youth international died on Saturday in Mendoza, where he had been a leading forward for Godoy Cruz in the Argentine top-flight
On the morning of February 6, Godoy Cruz’s Uruguayan forward Santiago Garcia was found dead in his apartment in Mendoza, having died by suicide.
News of the 30-year-old’s passing provoked an outbreak of mourning in both Garcia’s native Uruguay and across Argentina, where his exploits had made him a cult hero.
Godoy Cruz fans flocked to pay tribute to their idol, while the circumstances of his death opened up one of football’s most sensitive debates: how the sport must care for its employees’ mental, as well as physical health.
Garcia grew up in the Barrio Colon neighbourhood on the impoverished fringes of Montevideo, and as a youngster was snapped up by Uruguayan giants Nacional, the same club that produced Luis Suarez.
In 2008, two years after Suarez had left Montevideo for the Netherlands, a 17-year-old Garcia marked his first-team debut with a goal against Defensor Sporting, and quickly became a prodigious scorer for his boyhood club.
The 2010 Apertura saw Garcia net 15 in as many games, while the following year he added eight to his tally in the Clausura to lead Nacional to the title while also scoring three times in the Copa Libertadores, including a famous double to down Fluminense at Parque Central.
That early promise, coupled with a fantastic showing at the 2009 South American Under-20 Championship, where he hit three goals alongside fellow hotshot Abel Hernandez, led Garcia to be labelled Uruguay’s next great forward, a worthy challenger to the likes of Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front…