Geraldo Francisco dos Santos, known by fans as Zizinho, died at the age of 59 on Thursday, July 29, just hours before his son, Jonathan dos Santos, was set to take the field against Canada in the Gold Cup semi-final.
While many fans expected him to take some time for himself, dos Santos played through it, starting the game for Mexico and playing 61 minutes as his team went on to win 2-1. Now, following their big win, Mexico coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is explaining why dos Santos decided to play, saying it’s what his father would have wanted.
“The situation with Jona and what happened today, first we hear the news with deep sadness,” Martino explained. “After that, we all had to overcome the fact that Jonathan received this news and try to give him strength.”
Jonathan Dos Santos, whose father passed away earlier today, is surrounded by his teammates after Mexico's goal ❤️🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/LV5qts5sbW— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 30, 2021
“Only he knows what he’s feeling in these sad moments. After communicating with his mother, he decided to stay and play because, in his words and his mom’s, it’s what his dad would’ve wanted,” he continued. “Whatever decision he would‘ve made in this circumstance, he has all of our support. It’s one of those days where you analyze whether or not football is the most important thing in life or if it’s family.”
It’s only right Jonathan honor his father by playing--and winning--a game just a few hours after his passing, as Zizinho was a soccer player himself.
Though he was born in Brazil, dos Santos began his professional career in Mexico in 1980 with Club America before going on to play for the likes of Club Leon, Necaxa, and Monterrey. He played in Mexico from 1980 to 1991, with a stint in El Salvador in between.
Two of his sons followed in his footsteps and went on to become prominent members of Mexico’s national team: Jonathan and his brother, Giovani.
It wasn’t just Jonathan with his father in mind throughout Thursday night’s game, his whole team made sure to honor the sports legend.
After Orbelin Pineda scored the opening goal, the entire Mexico team huddled around dos Santos and pointed to the sky, honoring Zizinho.
Hector Moreno was among the players on dos Santos’ team to pay tribute to his family after the game, saying in an interview with Univision Deportes: “It’s very tough because Zizinho was a great person.”
“I only hope that he has a beautiful rest, that the family is good and from here we send our most heartfelt condolences,” he continued.
Now, following Thursday’s win, Mexico is going to the Gold Cup finale to take on the U.S. men’s national team, who advanced on Thursday with a 1-0 win over Qatar.