Atlético Madrid midfielder’s comeback from brain cancer and mother’s paralysis sparks debate
A few days before Christmas, José Mourinho’s team played at the Santiago Bernabéu. They won 1-0. A few days later, on the same pitch the same stadium, the same match, they lost. Two defeats in six weeks.
On the night of November 17, Mourinho’s team travelled to the Bernabéu to face Atlético Madrid. It was the final league game of the season, and the game had been declared a draw at the start of the second half. Three points for the second-bottom team in La Liga, three for the reigning Premier League champions. It was a dream come true for the Lisbon club: Mourinho’s team had won the competition’s domestic treble only four months earlier, by beating Barcelona in the final. He had led the team to the Champions League final only 13 months before, in April 2014, only to be knocked out in the group stages.
Yet the night after Atlético had beaten Valencia in the league, Mourinho’s players were still sitting on the bench, as if that loss had never happened. Football in general is rife with weird stories of managerial success in one country and collapse in another. The latest story about Mourinho’s reign comes from the story of José, and it’s as bizarre as it is heartbreaking. It’s the story of José’s mother, María de Jesús Sánchez, who, over six weeks, was paralysed in her left leg, her brain and her other left arm. It was her second paralysis, the third time around the world.
It began on March 14, when, at around a quarter to nine in the evening, Sánchez’s husband, José, went to their flat in Madrid to check on their two-year-old daughter. José is in his 30s, and they have three children: José’s wife, Álvaro, and two boys in Barcelona, one and four years old. He went out the door, walked to the bus stop, and then turned around and came back.
“Hello, José? This is Mar