Argentina’s footballing world was plunged into mourning this week, after it was confirmed that Godoy Cruz striker Santiago ‘Morro’ García had committed suicide.
García, 30, a top scorer and fan’s favourite for the Mendoza side, was found dead last Saturday at his apartment. Both his mother and the courts later confirmed he had taken his own life.
“My son committed suicide because he was depressed. He was undergoing psychiatric treatment and recently he had been left out of the team, which hurt him badly,” the player’s mother, Claudia Correa, told a television channel in Mendoza, after arriving with other family members to take her son’s body back to his homeland.
Prosecutor Claudia Ríos confirmed the hypothesis of suicide, adding: “Now we must determine whether it was instigated or assisted in any way.”
García, who was being treated for personal problems and depression according to reports, was found dead last Saturday “on his bed shot through the right temple with a .22-calibre firearm and no sign of anybody else at the scene,” according to the prosecutor.
He had been dead since the small hours of Thursday, an autopsy revealed.
Family members expressed anguish and frustration, with Correa, the player’s mother, strongly criticising the club’s leadership for their treatment of her son, especially club President José Mansur.
“Apart from the worldwide pandemic, which did not let us cross the River Plate, this Mr Mansur never tired of scorning and abusing him.
“He has never answered me. He’s in the [exclusive Atlantic resort of] Cariló taking ‘some well-deserved vacations’ and could at least have extended his condolences to me. Not even that. In Uruguay we always extend our condolences.”
In further criticism of the official, Correa attributed to him a previous statement that described García as “a negative leader for the club.”
“My son was always a humble man, a kid who helped everybody and always at the side of his teammates. He never disrespected anybody,” she said.
In a statement, Godoy Cruz praised ‘Morro’ García as “a hero,” before refuting any link between the club and the footballer’s death.
“You were top-scorer, you were friend and family, you were everything anybody could want to be when getting behind the ball,” it continued, adding that the player’s “decision was motivated by personal problems that he had had for a long time,” which were “totally unrelated to his relationship with this institution.”
The Mendoza side announced last weekend, when news of the player’s death emerged, that they would not be lining him up for the initial rounds of the Copa de la Liga 2021 campaign, which starts this weekend.
The club also vowed to retire the late footballer’s number 18 shirt.
Messages, tributes and condolences flooded in for García, with players, coaches, clubs and federations expressing their regrets. A wake was held last Sunday, at which fans turned out in large numbers.
The late Uruguayan striker’s Godoy Cruz teammate, Facundo Silva, lamented that he hadn’t realised his friend’s state of mind, having spoken to him just a few days earlier.
“Why didn’t you give me some sign so that I could realise? We shared a video call two days previously and you were in great form as always,” said Silva, in a public post on his Instagram account.
“I feel guilty about having been unable to lend you a hand but you were always fine and nobody could beat you, you were like a superhero who never talked about his problems,” wrote the midfielder.
In an interview with a local radio station, Marcelo Roffé, the president of the Association of Sports Psychologists, deplored that clubs “care more about the body than the mind of elite footballers.”
Roffé, who has worked with the Albiceleste national team squad, warned that in Argentina “only 20 percent of First Division football clubs provide psychological assistance” to players.
García, who signed for Godoy Cruz in 2016, was currently looking for another club, with his deal set to expire in June.
“At 30 a player starts thinking of his retirement and that’s traumatic. García was 30 and had [potentially] no job,” Roffé told Radio Mendoza.
The specialist, who currently works with top-flight side Lanús, considered that the “First Division climate is very dehumanised,” but “unfortunately we only talk about that when there are tragedies because the show must go on.”
Short and stocky, ‘Morro’ García was a talented but troubled footballer. He made his debut with Nacional of Montevideo, before going on to represent his country in the 2009 Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, playing three times and scoring once.
García’s club career subsequently took off and his impressive form with Nacional – finishing top-scorer as the team won the league title in 2010-2011 – helped seal a big-money move to Atletico Paranaense of Brazil. The spell did not end well, however, with the striker testing positive for banned substances and sold off, just two years into a five-year contract.
Transferred to Turkish side Kasimpasa, 12 months later García was back at Nacional, where he spent one season before moving to Club Atlético River Plate (Uruguay).
Then, in January 2016, García moved to Godoy Cruz, finding a home in Mendoza and an adoring public. Helping the club to one of their successful periods, the striker finished top scorer in the 2017–18 Primera División season, scoring 17 goals, and played with the Mendocinos in the Copa Libertadores.