Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cyprian Fernandes: Nairobi Heroes

With thanks to Goacom


1950 - 1968

Nairobi Heroes Football Team
Photo Courtesy of John Lobo.

1950 Soccer Season Champions

Standing: Luis Pereira, Anthony Raposa, Cajetan Fernandes, Billy Gomes, Aselmo D'Souza
Billy Gomes, S. Soarers and Anthony Fernandes.
Sitting: George D'Souza, Xavier Santiago, Johnny Lobo (Captain) George Rodrigues, and Santos D'Souza
Floor: Robert Santiago and Marshall Fernandes
Trophies: Top - Nazareth Brothers Cup - Left Seychelles Cup - Right Salus Cup Middle Dev Dutt Shield

By: John J. D'Souza
Following the post-war period, Nairobi had a number of Goan clubs which had been in existence for decades. These clubs had their own buildings, hockey cricket and football grounds, badminton and tennis courts, and a host of other facilities. However, membership into these clubs was often depended on what one, or one's father, did for a living !

In the early fifties a group of young Goan Turks formed the Nairobi Heroes Sports Club. Admission into their ranks was open to all, with one simple proviso; to be outstanding in playing the game of football. Within a few years they were able to challenge the established clubs and win innumerable trophies..

The "Mother " of cup final match in Goan sports history, took place one sunny evening in 1950 when the Heroes squared off against the renowned Goan Institute (founded in 1905). The pre-game formalities were spectacular. The Goan Institute (GI) team in their azure blue shirts lined up in one corner of the field. In the opposite corner the Heroes did the same, wearing their distinctive flaming red shirts. Each team, led by a mascot, a young girl in white dress with a sash of the team colours, filed along the side lines, and to the centre of the field where they were greeted by the guest of honour, the Portuguese Consul. The referee for the game was none other than the football loving, friend of all Goans, Irish Father Leahy.

The game met all the expectations of the real Hero's fans, the young boys of the community. The main action was in the GI half, the team playing hard to defend it's reputation. The few GI scoring efforts in front of the Hero's goal were quickly stifled by spectacular diving saves of goalkeeper and team captain, Johnny Lobo. The game is especially remembered for the way it ended. The Heroes no doubt won convincingly, but towards the end referee, Fr. Leahy got kicked by a GI player. Heroes fans, to this day claim it was deliberate, while those of the GI, swear it was accidental.

The Heroes grew in stature, and in 1950 alone won all the four football trophies in tournaments that season. To be playing for the Heroes was an honour. They were soon joined by the best players of the established clubs, who were only able to field token teams in subsequent years.

The Heroes began as rebels in our community. Their cause was that of our unrepresented youth. They achieved what they had set out to do with dare and determination and became Our Team & Our Heroes.. and are remembered for all time.

By 1967, in the post independence era, times had changed. The once thriving community was being dispersed to various parts of the world. The Nairobi Heroes Sports Club was wound up at a Gala Dance held in a prominent Nairobi Hotel, with the same sense of style as when they came into being.
To: John Lobo, first Captain of the Heroes, for his help in reviewing this article

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