Two American Barcelona players, two friends, met again 47 years later when one of them, Norman Carmichael, like everyone else, thought only a few days ago that the other, Charles Thomas, had died decades ago. On the day of last March that the nurse who takes care of Thomas in the geriatric residence of Amarillo (Texas) contacted Carmichael, the blond former Barça player who is now 73 years old, thought they were playing a macabre joke on him or, Worse still, someone was trying to gain financial gain through deception. But when the 74-year-old ex-center-forward Charles Thomas got on board, Carmichael was stunned. There was no question. It was him. Nobody but Charles could speak to him in such detail about his experiences, those of two friends, two companions of fatigue in that basketball club of the seventies. Norman confirmed it, Charles, whom everyone from his family to his friends had left for dead since 1980, was alive. EL PAÍS, after speaking with Carmichael, located, interviewed and photographed Charles Thomas at the Amarillo residence where he lives. Carmichael, who just moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Forth Worth, Texas, waited a few days and has finally traveled to Amarillo. There the reunion has taken place.
“The first thing we did is hug. It was a very long hug, because neither he nor I wanted it to end. It has been very exciting, and we have been very excited. A hug that I had waited for 47 years, ”explains Carmichael in Barça Magazine, which has obtained the photograph of that reunion.
Carmichael, of 2.08 meters, was a Barça player from 1969 to 1978 and coincided with Thomas, of 2.01 meters, between 1971 and 1974, when he joined the Barça club after having been the top scorer for two seasons. League with Sant Josep. After his time at Barça, which ended with a season without playing after suffering a serious injury in a game against Real Madrid, he spent a season at Manresa. His wife separated from him and took their son back to their country. Thomas, out of basketball, lived for a time in Mexico and returned to the United States. He fell into addictions, he lived badly, sometimes on the street. He worked as a waiter, stockman, or carpenter. He stopped having contact with his family, with his friends. Word spread that he had passed away and so everyone thought. It was around this time that he lost both legs. “He was laying roofs when the old materials, which had rusty nails, fell, he stepped on one and his skin got infected. The infection spread and in the end they had to cut his legs twelve centimeters below the knee ”, he explained to his friend and teammate at Barça.
“47 years is a long time!” Exclaims Carmichael. “Had one very great sorrow for having lost him in this way, and so young. Finding him again has been the gift of a thousand Christmases! ”. The expívot of Barça, had certain reservations about how the reunion was going to turn out. “Sometimes when you want something a lot you are a little afraid that it will not turn out as well as you imagine, but our reunion has far exceeded my expectations. It went extraordinarily well. I am very happy and excited. He has some health problems, but with all the life he has led, he is quite well, and I have seen him very lively, with good humor, speaking well and clearly, and very affectionate in the conversation that we have had both ”.
Carmichael has spent two days in Amarillo with his friend. “In total we have been together for about six hours, and we have talked a lot by ourselves. There were also cameras, because a network has been interested in making a documentary about Charles’s life. The people who take care of him at the residence are extraordinary ”, says Carmichael in Barça Magazine. “They take care of him and love him very much. It is not a sad place, at all, and they have prepared a room for him where they have hung the photos of when he was a player that I have been sending him large, and they have wallpaper the walls.
Carmichael explains that Matson, Mat, is the youngest son of Charles, brother of Carlos, the eldest; that he is a truck driver and has been able to go see his father. “Charles doesn’t know his grandchildren yet, but I imagine he will. They are talking about what they will do from now on. Matson lives in Houston and would like to be closer to his father. “
Carmichael explains that Charles Thomas maintains an optimistic spirit and that he is very believing. “He has taken refuge in religion a lot. He has told me that the world is like that, thank God ”. And he concludes that he continues to see in Charles, “an intelligent, loving person and a good man.”