Jorge Mendonça was born in Luanda, to whose meteorological observatory his father, who married an Angolan woman, had gone to work from Portugal. He stood out at Sporting de Luanda, created by his own father, and from there he went to Lisbon, and then to Braga. He arrived in Spain with his brother Fernando, hired by Depor at the end of 57-58 to avoid a relegation to Third that seemed irremediable. They saved him and those five games were enough for Atlético to sign him the same summer as Vavá, the flaming world champion in Sweden with Brazil. Mendonça made a place for himself right away. He was a forward of enormous class, with stature, stately stride and dribbling. Years later, Kluivert reminded me of his ways. He always played with a knee brace on his right, a vestige of a blow that he struck as a child against the edge of the bed, escaping from his mother’s slipper, after a mischief.
Nationalized in 1961, he was officially renamed Jorge Mendoza. Apart from not occupying a place, he was able to play the Cup (then forbidden to foreigners), which he would win twice with Atlético, as well as a League and a Recopa. It was a glory to see him. One European night he scored such a goal against Dinamo Zagreb that the old Metropolitan’s audience took to the field and raised him on their shoulders, shouting “bullfighter, bullfighter …! It was so good that he was forgiven the many weeks in which he was in rebellion (along with others, also Collar) to demand more money. It was then that Atlético had to request a loan from Grosso to Madrid, because he was in relegation places. Again he disappeared in the middle of the season; Over time it was justified as a family trip to Braga that left a trail of ugly rumors.
In the 66-67 he was 28 years old, Gárate appeared, the club was in a hurry with the payments for the Manzanares stadium, just released, and Vicente Calderón, president of the athletic team, received an offer from Barça for 12 million. The other way around, Barça had finally sold the land of the old Les Corts and what they had was a very weak team. He signed him for three years. He entered in April, with time to play the Cup, that Barça would beat Madrid at the Bernabéu in the famous final of the bottles.
There Mendoza became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Narcís de Carreras, the president of the club (he had succeeded Llaudet, who was the one who signed him) found that intolerable. Partly influenced by the Archbishop of La Seu d’Urgell, of whom he was a close friend, he forbade the coach, Artigas, to line him up. He came to ask him on his knees to allow it, but he was inflexible. So after a 67-68 in which he was indisputable, in 68-69 he only played seven games. Narcís de Carreras reached an agreement with his friend Guillermo Ginard, president of the recently re-established Mallorca, and gave it to him for free. The reasons for his departure did not emerge then.
Already in Mallorca it was national news that he was a Jehovah’s Witness, who made visits to sell Bibles and sermons against violence. The stay was not happy for him: Ginard did not pay. In the middle of the season, Mallorca got rid of him in a bad way due to an injury. He left him to owe 550,000 pesetas. With that then you bought yourself a flat in Madrid.
It was a time when footballers were defenseless against defaults, they could not go to ordinary justice. The clubs did what they wanted. Mendoza filed a lawsuit that ended in the Supreme Court and established jurisprudence by recognizing soccer players as employed workers. Mallorca continued without paying and after eight years a court decreed the seizure or auction of the players’ chips. Auctioned off as slaves, was the common owner. Those events formed a first stone to build the AFE.
Then he went to Normandy, where he studied sports medicine. From there he brought football 7 to Spain, which we see children playing today. He was hired by the Angolan embassy, already an independent country (and harassed by internal war) as a sports ambassador. First, he created a team of Angolan immigrants in Spain, which started regionally and wore the colors of Barça. But from there he jumped to the idea of creating a World Emigration. It involved 20 embassies, obtained strong sponsorship from the Post Office, and pushed the idea forward, which turned out well for seven editions, until serious incidents in a final killed that momentum.
Then he went to Angola to improve the football base, but only found misgivings and corruption. Today he lives in Madrid calm and happy, active in the clubs as a member of the veterans group. He frequents the stadium, where his plaque is one of the most respected. Every time I see Atleti playing against Barça, his memory assails me.
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