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Mombasa Born Joe Gonsalves was
‘Superb Athlete And Soccer Star’

Coastweek-- Joe Gonsalves was a brilliant young soccer player and exceptional athlete in Mombasa at a time when the Kenya coastal capital was blessed with some of the greatest Goan sporting heroes of our time, writes Cyprian Fernandes(*).

Former Daily Nation Chief Reporter | Coastweek


First there was the greatest of them all, the Commonwealth Games double sprint gold medallist, Seraphino Antao, Albert Castanha (the finest all-round sportsman), Joe Faria (sprinter), Jack Fernandes (sprinter), Laura Ramos (sprinter), Franklyn Pereira (hockey), Joe Fernandes (soccer), Tony Masky (soccer), George Da Costa (soccer), Wilfred D’Souza (soccer), Leslie Pinto (hockey), Silvano Pinto (hockey), Michael Fernandes (hockey), Reynolds Pereira (hockey), Alan Noronha (sprinter, hockey), Michael Fernandes (Hockey Olympian 1956), Anthony Pinto (cricketer), Ernest Vianna (spectacular tennis player), Xavier Vianna (tennis), Alcino Rodrigues (400 metres specialist), Effie Antao (sensational soccer goal scorer).

There were many others, too, and whose names have faded just as much as my own memory continues to fade with time. God Bless ‘em all.

So it was amongst this ex-quisite collection of male and females sporting icons that Joe Gonsalves walked tall with great pride and even greater humility.

It was sufficient that his team mates looked up to him and those he played against respected his skills.

He would have played in the English Premier League, or at least had a shot at it, after soccer coach Ray Batchelor arranged for Joe to trial with a premier club.

Cyprian Fernandes is a former Daily Nation Chief Reporter and veteran investigative journalist who currently lives in Sydney Australia.  

However, being the only boy in the family, his father asked Joe to put his family first and put an end to the idea of going to the UK.

Two great English players, Sir Stanley Mathews (Wolves, West Brom, various) and Len Shackleton (the Clown Prince of Sunderland) were very impressed with Joe after con-ducting various soccer clinics in Mombasa.

Matches between any two of these teams attracted hordes of supporters, sometimes even reaching as many as 8,000 or even 10,000.

This may seem small in modern times, but in those days of small populations, it was big time.

As opposed to the somewhat “hard” style of soccer played by their northern counterparts in Nairobi representing tribal groupings like the Luo Union (later Gor Mahia), Abaluhya, Maragoli, Nairobi Heroes etc, soccer at the Coast was all finesse mixed with goal-nets smashing power.

Joe Gonsalves provided the finesse and creative genius for Feisal before he moved to the Mombasa Institute.

Effie Antao was an absolute goal net smasher.

The leading Goan players (only the best made it to the three teams and wannabes were droves in number) were shared between the three teams.

Against each other and other teams, especially the ones from Nairobi, there was nothing soft about the battles.


Coast sporting hero Late Joe Gonsalves | Coastweek

  Coastweek-- Coast sporting hero Late Joe Gonsalves.

However, the Coast teams add finesse with deft touches to their power plays.

Sadly, they did not always succeed.

The Nairobi teams had a larger population to pick the best from.

However, Joe did play alongside and against the likes of Kadir Farah, Ahmed Breik, Ali Sungura (the barefooted left winger with the deftest of turns of feet and a bullet like shot) and Ali Kajo (simply the greatest ball player in Kenya for a very long time; his skills and finishing was sensational).

The thing about Joe was that, way before his time, and way before the advent of the professional supremos of the international game, Joe had already the finessed skills of super anticipation, the unbeatable through ball for someone else to score and the ability to read the game beyond the first two or three passes.

Joe, the quiet genius, made the game look so easy, yet he was no pushover.

He was solid as he was as quick as the cheetah running away from his markers or lethal as a leopard in scoring goals.

Joe played mainly for the Mombasa Goan Institute and represented the Mombasa regional team.

He should have played for Kenya but the administrators in up country Nairobi always seemed to have other ideas in relation to their coastal cousins.

Like Joe, many more Goans, should have represented Kenya especially my own personal favourite Franklyn Pereira, one of the great hockey players of our time.


Young Coastal soccer player | Coastweek

  Coastweek-- Joe Gonsalves was a brilliant young Coastal soccer player.

That wonderful Kenyan coastal newspaper the Mombasa Times (forerunner to the equally successful Coast-week) religiously chronicled all aspects of life at the coast, especially sport.

Needless to say, Joe featured in many a headline.

Sadly the beloved Mombasa Times is no more.

However, Joe’s daughter, Jocelyn, was able to salvage one or two clippings.

Here are a few glimpses in match the Goan lost 2-3 to the mighty Liverpool (they had previous drawn 2-2 twice in the same competition, the Nyama Cup).

This report is by soccer and athletics coach Ray Batchelor (I know he would have been proud to pay a tribute or two to Joe, Ray was always a great pal of mine):

“The Goans attacked and J. Gonsalves pushed a cunning ball through the middle and the deceptively slow moving Seraphino Antao was on the spot to push the ball past Hassan to give the Goans the lead.”

Soon after Liverpool equalised, Joe was at it again:

“From a free kick, away went J. Gonsalves and his cleverly engineered opening for Lucas Remedios had the crowd really screaming.”

Sadly, the shot was stopped by the full back.

The Joe Gonsalves-Seraphino Antao has gone down in soccer history as the combination that terrorised most teams at the coast.

A special tribute by Hockey Olympian Raphael Fernandes:

As the Sports Fraternity especially the soccer players share their deepest sympathies and condolences to Natty, Jocelyn, Sharlyn, and Tash-lyn, not forgetting Joshua and Jonah, we respect, reflect upon and reminisce Sir Joe Gonsalves, an officer and true gentleman who touched everybody’s lives with his warm and handsome smile that portrayed his love, kindness, and generosity.

I will always cherish the day I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Joe with the Kenya Hockey Union Committee in Nairobi, as Reynolds Pereira and myself attended the trials at the City Park Stadium, and he sure showed how proud he was of us as we represented the Coast – Mombasa, where he grew up.

He inspired me to be great sportsmen with diplomacy, in guiding me through the golden rules of sport:

Love, Respect and Discipline.

I will always be grateful for his kind attention.

We definitely built a great camaraderie through the years and I had the pleasure to meet his gorgeous angels — Jocelyn, Sharlyn, and Tashlyn, and finally his glamorous niece Alison, who is now my loving wife, thanks to Joe for being very instrumental.

On all our visits to Joe and Natty’s home in Nairobi and Australia, he always welcomed us with open arms, as he built a home full of love, kindness and respect that portrayed that generous coastal warmth, and I will always treasure those fond memories.

Sir Joe Gonsalves, the diverse sports fraternity around the world and I will personally salute you indefinitely and will always be there for Natty, Jocelyn, Sharlyn, and Tashlyn.

Kwaheri Mheshimiwa – Tuta Onana!

(Goodbye Sir, We will meet again)

Joe was not only a great football player but also a great sports administrator.

One of his many admirers was the hockey great, Franklyn Pereira, who remembered a brilliant but shy star who did not seek the limelight, who was, in fact rather shy.

Franklyn went on to become a leading businessman in Mombasa, chairman of the Mombasa Goan Institute for long spells and one who really helped the folks of the coast wherever and whenever he could.

“A fantastic footballer and his legs spoke the language; he was a great dribbler with full control of the ball – it was magic but most of all he shared his talent with many youngsters who wanted to play the game.”

In Nairobi, he served as the vice chairman of the powerful Kenya Hockey Union and chaired its disciplinary committee.

With Hygino Vaz, Joe started the Vikings hockey club.

He was a bit of a gentle godfather to the team.

Very special relationship.

Alcino Rodrigues (ex-Mom-basa), another contemporary of Joe’s, was also an elite athlete:

“My memories of Joe are that he comes from a God loving and God fearing family and a great gentleman, someone many would like to emulate.

“He was a true sportsman on and off the field.”

Alban Cardoso (ex-Mom-basa):

“Uncle Joe was a natural musician.

“He played the violin, accordion and flute rather well.

“I remember him once playing the violin for the Goan School band.

“As a natural athlete and sportsman, he played badminton and field hockey in his younger days.

“Of course, he was pre-eminent in his beloved soccer, and played the game with passion, tactical brilliance, elegance and sportsmanship.

“I remember how thrilled he was when he met Sir Stanley Matthews, the” wizard of the dribble.”

“He was also complimented by Len Shackleton.”

Patrick Martins (ex-Mom-basa and Nairobi):

“In the late 1970s, Joe was the founding Vice -Chairman and sponsor of the Vikings Sports Club, formed as a breakaway from the Goan Institute Nairobi, with a view to providing youngsters with the opportunity to compete with the hockey leaders at that time.

“The legendary hockey umpire Peter Barbosa was the first chairman.

“The team included Olympians Leo Fernandes, Silu Fer-nandes, Hygino Vaz and the late Hippol Fernandes as goalkeeper.

“That was Joe, he loved sport and believed the strengths of youth when combined with experience could be a winning combination for any team.

“After a Kenya Cup game in Kiganjo against the mighty Sikh Union, Hardev Singh (brother of the legendary Kenya coach Hardial Singh) called the Vikings the future Kenya team ... not only because of our per-formance but because of the mixed blend of players from all walks of life.

I guess, where Joe, Effie, Masky and all presently find themselves is the cycle of life ... those were the days ... when we were all fearless ... and today we watch the next generation carry the baton ... fearless too ... in all of their pursuits...

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