There are no words you can give you perspective about when you lose a colleague. It gives you perspective on how blessed one is to actually be working in this “calling”. When Argentine journalist Jorge “Topo” López passed away this past week, one reflects and one realizes. López, like many other people (myself included) in Belo Horizonte, passed through the bridge that collapsed last week.
He passed that bridge minutes before it collapsed. But his fate was elsewhere. Days later in São Paulo, López would be sideswiped in an intersection by a car that was used by thieves to get away from police. The 38-year-old journalist died instantly that morning and was a huge blow for many Argentine colleagues. This was just a few days after María Soledad Fernández died in a car crash in a trip from São Paulo to Belo Horizonte after she finished watching Argentina play at Arena Corinthians.
Those were tough blows, but there are some that hit home a little harder. There are also moments that make you appreciate life a little more. The reason being is that when you know a person that you “grew up with” professionally and he suddenly dies, it makes you stop and think more about what they left behind. In the case of Armando García, it was a tough one to swallow. He was a trendsetter in this country. He was one of those people whose passion involved covering leagues outside of Major League Soccer or the Premier League. Sometimes he argued against the current, and to him it was pleasurable.
His projects like Forza Futbol and The Ball Is Flat websites and podcasts that he ran with his friends made you believe that soccer in this country had hope and was heading in the right direction. This sentiment was believed even when MLS was not undergoing the explosion that we have seen in the past few years. The difference was that Mando did not do it waving pom poms and rooting senselessly like many did here.
Mando didn’t do it with bias, although many times he did show his Periquito spirit; sometimes with a jocular, other times… not so much. Yet throughout his time as the leader of Forza Futbol and the founder of the Espanyol USA Supporters Group, he showed vision and passion for the game, his colors and family (his real one as well as his futbol one).
All of this I am saying is just about the man that could have been a journalist with the amount of knowledge he had. Yet his first true love was teaching.
In the way he spoke to you, immediately you had the understanding that he was in the teaching profession. He was a person that looked to teach people about futbol and there was a need to have people like those around, especially in the United States. Yet what he did in the classroom helping mold the lives of many youths in Los Angeles was much more admirable than what many millionaire footballers have done on a pitch.
Mando’s human qualities made journalistic ones seem miniscule. He helped me out during a very tough time when my career was at a crossroads and my mother was dying of cancer. His words of encouragement were helpful and sometimes empowering. He was one of those voices that helped get me through that time and get back into what I had come to love. I can tell you for sure that every time a new endeavor emerged on my end, Mando was one of the people that always congratulated me.
His well wishes to one and all were paid back to him with the wonderful family that he had. If there was one thing he was more passionate about than his beloved Espanyol, it was his family. From his wife to his kids, there was a joy when you spoke to him you knew that his family was greater than any futbol title his team would earn.
Sometimes life is cruel. It distances those because of geography and the obligations of being a grown up, but futbol always had that something that let us all know that we were still around.
We never met face-to-face, but I can tell you that I appreciated him – disagreements and all. Yet, more than what he helped me out with, I believe it is guys like him that have helped the sport gain the traction it has in this country. He didn’t do it in a high-profile way. He did it at a grassroots level and exposed people to something that the mainstream had a hard time covering.
This might be one of the best World Cups we seen in our lifetime, but the journalistic part of it took a tremendous hit. Topo López, María Soledad Fernández as well as Mando are no longer with us, but they have the best seat in the house at that Maracanã in the sky. I know for sure Mando will be interjecting and offering his insight to them. Also, I could see a debate or two brewing there. One thing is for sure, I hope they enjoy the final. Knowing Mando, I know he will.
Here are some additional notes from others at World Soccer Talk who knew Mando well:
As the editor and publisher of World Soccer Talk, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news late this morning of the death of Armando (or better known as Mando). Armando was a great friend of the website and podcast. And I kept in touch with him personally, especially on the topic of Spanish football.
Armando wrote several articles for our now defunct sister site LaLigaTalk.com. One of them, especially, was more memorable than others, which was a travelogue of his journey to Spain to go watch Espanyol play.
Throughout my interactions with him, I always found him to be a very humble, kind and intelligent person.
To me, he was one of the pioneers of the soccer podcast space in the United States — one of the unsung heroes. He and the Forza Futbol podcast team, as well as a handful of other soccer podcasts in the 2005-2007 period, helped grow the game in the United States and helped connect fans long before the sport became as popular as it is today.
I’ll miss you Mando.
Mando was an incredible colleague. Supportive and loyal to a fault. He was always willing to give me ideas and advice regarding my writing and podcast work. His knowledge of history complimented my interest in the subject and we struck up many a devoted conversation about historical and political topics and their impact on the sport of soccer. He was a great friend and colleague. His presence, which was so critical to the building of this site and my career in soccer journalism, will be forever missed.
RIP ARMANDO GARCIA, 1966 to 2014.