What the death of Pep Guardiola's mother says about the shrinking circle of coronavirus tragedy

Doug McIntyre
·4-min read
MADRID, SPAIN - 2020/02/25: Pep Guardiola coach of Manchester City attends the Manchester City Press Conference at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. (Photo by Legan P. Mace/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Dolors Sala Carrio, mother of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (above), has died because of COVID-19. (Legan P. Mace/Getty)

As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has touched just about everybody on Earth in one way or another, Monday’s news that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola had lost his mother to the deadly coronavirus was, for many, the moment the deadly nature of this global crisis finally hit home.

It’s been easy, in the weeks since planet futbol and the wider world suddenly ground to a halt, to lament the loss of personal freedom or employment or general well-being that the response to the illness has wrought. Our mental health is suffering. The financial implications are terrifying. Yet thankfully, as we all track the reported number of COVID-19 fatalities that are continuing to rise both near and far, the overwhelming majority of us still probably don’t personally know anyone who’s died because of it.

That changed on Monday, with the news that the mother of perhaps the best-known coach in the world’s most popular sport had become its latest victim.

Sure, we’ve all heard the horror stories coming out of overrun hospitals in Italy and New York City and Spain, where Guardiola’s 82-year-old mother, Dolors Sala Carrió, succumbed. It’s not the first time soccer has lost one of its own.

Last month, a 21-year-old Spanish coach died on March 15, although he had been suffering from a form of leukemia that made him more vulnerable. Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz died from the virus days later.

For the most part, though, the famous people who have been infected — from Tom Hanks to Prince Charles to Pink to Kevin Durant to soccer players like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Paulo Dybala and World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi — have made full and complete recoveries, the same as most of those who have contracted this Coronavirus. That’s great news, to be sure.

But it also has led some to underestimate the seriousness of a highly contagious virus that has killed over 74,000 people around the world since December and requires hospitalization for up to 20 percent of those who get it. And those numbers are only going to get more horrific, even with some European countries’ curves only now beginning to level off.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, the worst is yet to come. “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, it’s going to be our 9/11 moment, it’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday, referencing two of the gravest attacks in modern American history.

It seems inevitable that there will be at least one otherwise healthy and well-known young athlete who doesn’t simply recover before this is all over. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. The likelihood that we’re going to hear more stories like Guardiola’s, about the family members of the sports figures and entertainers we watch becoming statistics, is significantly greater. That goes for our own families, too. This disease doesn’t care who you’re related to.

It was only two weeks ago that Guardiola donated one million euros ($1.08 million) to fight the virus, and just one since he appeared in public service video released by City in which he joked that “we’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder ... and a little bit fatter. ”

“Stay safe, stay inside,” the message concluded. The crisis has morphed into a personal tragedy for Guardiola and his family, laying bare the devastating reality of this illness in the process. Now, sadly, far fewer of us can say we don’t know anyone who has lost a loved one because of it.

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