BY MATHEW ALMEIDA
India achieved an all-time record at the Asian Games 2022 hosted by China, bagging 107 medals. Extra interest in sports appeared to have peaked in August 2021 with India winning seven medals in the Olympics. By numbers, this may have been the best performance, but this, as some might say, did not happen overnight.
In Goa an athletics stadium was named after the Flying Sikh Milka Singh who never won any Olympic medal. Another was named after Major Dhyan Chand who won three Olympic gold medals. Agreed that Milkha and Dhyan Chand deserved honours for what they did, but were there no Goan Olympians who competed for India who could have been honoured? The Goan contribution to India’s story in the field of international sports since 1936 is narrated below.
The first in line of these legendary heroes is the Goan Peter Paul Fernandes who was part of India’s gold medal winning hockey team in 1936 Berlin Olympics. He was a descendant of a Goan family who immigrated to Karachi and belonged to the minority Christian community.
At the 1948 London Olympics, Walter D'Souza, Lawrie Fernandes, Maxie Vaz, Leo Pinto and Reginald Rodrigues were part of the gold medal winning hockey team. Goalkeeper Leo is said to have been the best hockey player at that Olympics.
At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Mary D'Souza Siqueira became the first Indian woman to qualify for an Olympics. She competed in the 100 metres and 200 metres women’s race. She was awarded the Dhyan Chand award in 2013 by President Pranab Mukherjee.
Another Goan, Lavy Pinto, reached the semifinal of the men’s 100 meters race, the first and only time an Indian reached a semifinal in this race. Mary is living today, is aged 92, and continues to inspire Indian sportspersons.
Goan footballer, Neville D'Souza from Assagao, scored a hattrick in the semifinal against Australia as the Indian men’s football team stood fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Mary D’Souza qualified again for the Olympics but was unable to participate as the government did not finance the travelling cost.
At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Fortunato Franco from Colvale represented India in football. This was the last time India qualified for the Olympic football.
In 1964, at the Tokyo Olympics, Anthony Francis Coutinho represented India in the 4 x 100 metres relay, reaching the semifinal. Another Goan, Stephanie D’Souza, represented India in the women’s 400 metres race. Stephanie was the first woman athlete and second woman to win the Arjuna award.
Edward Sequeira from Arpora ran the 5000 meters race at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Dr Vece Paes was part of the hockey bronze medal winning team though he did not play a match.
At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Mervyn Fernandes was part of the men’s hockey team which won the gold medal. Additionally four Goans, Margaret Toscano, Selma D'Silva, Lorraine Fernandes and Eliza Nelson (former Mendonca), were part of the women’s hockey team which stood fourth .
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Joaquin Carvalho from Assolna and Marcellus Gomes were part of the hockey team.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Darryl D'Souza represented Goa in Men’s Hockey. The 1996 Olympics at Atlanta are well remembered as the son of Assolna/Velim Leander Paes won the bronze medal in tennis.
In all 22 Goans have represented India at the Olympics, of which seven were part of gold-winning team. Three of them were born in Goa but the rest, at some time or the other, have lived in their homeland Goa.
Will the government of Goa honour these athletes who gave all they had for India? Will stadiums be named after them or will there be statues of them to inspire more Goans to reach Olympic heights?
Goans, let us remember them. Let’s not let the memories of Goan Olympians fade away and be forgotten forever. It would be ideal for the Government of Goa to name stadiums or sports complexes and memorials after these Goan sports heroes in order to inspire youngsters and keep alive the memory of these heroes.