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(*).
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
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
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
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.
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
Sadly the beloved Mombasa Times is no
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
Sadly, the shot was stopped by the
The Joe Gonsalves-Seraphino Antao has
gone down in soccer history as the combination that terrorised most teams at the
A special tribute by Hockey Olympian
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
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
With Hygino Vaz, Joe started the
Vikings hockey club.
He was a bit of a gentle godfather to
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
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
Patrick Martins (ex-Mom-basa and
“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
“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
“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...