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Obituary: Nicky de Mello, a sports fan-atic

The late Nicky De Mello wearing  Montreal Expos cap at a Blue Jays game in Toronto
From Left: Ajit Singh, George Moraes, Willie Lobo, Norman Da Costa, Polly Pereira and Lionel Pereira.


The late Nicky De Mello and Norman da Costa receiving mementoes at the Malkit Singh function which Nicky helped organise

NICKY DE MELLO – ONE OF A KIND
  

    By Norman Da Costa

It was an innings that came to an abrupt end. Nicky de Mello was a diehard cricket fan whose life revolved around the game. To the utter surprise of his many friends he would wake up at 2 a.m. to catch the first ball bowled by Ishant Sharma in a Test match in the comfortable confines of his home in Mississauga. But this was Nicky. There were no half measures about him. As a fan, as a travel agent or as a sports administrator he stood out. He left an indelible mark in whatever project he undertook.
Like most diehard fans of cricket, Nicky ate, drank and slept the game. Back home in Uganda he also looked after the scorebook and on occasions umpired as well, much to the chagrin of the opposing team. On a couple of occasions his finger went up for a leg before wicket appeal even before the ball had reached the batsman. Few crossed his path. He was knowledgeable enough to dissect India’s shortcomings, especially in that World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand in July. He was very disappointed that India hadn’t advanced to the final, but being a cultured fan he accepted the fact New Zealand was the better team on the day. “Well India will bounce back and win the next World Cup,’’ said Nicky, a close friend of mine. Unfortunately, India’s biggest fan in this part of the world won’t be around to cheer India anymore or need any early wake up calls. The Entebbe-born Nicky passed away in Mississauga in the early hours of Oct. 24, 2019 at the age of 77.
     He leaves behind Cressy, his wife of 49 years, and his three children Evelyn (Peter), Twyla and Olivia and grandchildren Larissa, Samaya and Kierra. He is survived by his sisters Eulalia (U.K.) and Rose (B.C.), and brothers Marcus (U.K.) and Mario (Nova Scotia) and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces. Nick was predeceased by his brothers Felix, Victor, Peter and Arthur.

Cricket may have been his passion, but he followed every sport with the same enthusiasm and, after landing in Montreal following Idi Amin’s purge of the Asians, he turned his attention to baseball’s Expos and attended every home game in the cavernous Olympic Stadium. Nicky, like most Canadians, was certain the Expos would land the World Series in 1994-95 after an outstanding season. But in a cruel twist of fate their aspirations were crushed by a baseball strike. The Expos were then forced to abandon Montreal for Washington. Unfortunately, Nicky also missed what would have been a crowning moment for him when Washington Nationals lifted their very first World Series trophy by beating Houston Astros on Oct. 31, a few days after he passed away.

His love for sports knew no bounds possibly fuelled by the fact he couldn’t personally pursue any single activity seriously after losing an eye to a freak accident in his early teens.

As an administrator he had no equal. He is always spoken of in glowing terms and few in Uganda will forget that he was the driving force behind the birth of the Horizons who in a short time became a force to be reckoned with in that country. The Horizons were born after some players who belonged to Kampala Goan Institute became disenchanted with the lack of playing time due to politics. Enter Nicky and the rest is history.

The Horizons had a dream start by winning a trophy in their very first tournament. The team was led by Osbert Remedios and included Olympian George Moraes, brothers Jerry and Anthony Braganza, Leslie Sequeira, Charlie de Souza, Effie Rato, brothers Stan, Zenon and Hubie de Souza, Narendra Singh and Edwin Fonseca. Fonseca, a Uganda cricket international, scored the winning goal to stun none other than the KGI 1-0 to win the Bhandari Jaffer Trophy, one of that country’s top field hockey tournaments. Nicky did not stop there. He pulled enough strings to get a decent-sized hall at the Lugogo Stadium that was to eventually become the club’s clubhouse complete with a bar. He then embarked on a membership drive that peaked at 100. “He was meticulous in whatever he did,’’ said Moraes, the tall full back who was one of three Goans to represent Uganda in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. “He would organize several functions at the place and also brought in a few sponsors. He was the brains and worker behind the scenes, working tirelessly for his members and I have to thank him for my selection to Munich,’’ added Moraes.

Since Nicky and my family shared a long history that included his mom Bella being my godmother we enjoyed a close bond. In 1967 as sports secretary of the Railway Goan Institute I invited the Horizons to pay us a sports visit and that turned out to be one visit that’s fondly spoken about till today. Over the four days our bar did a roaring business. A year later in 1968 after RGI won the M.R. de Souza Gold Cup for the third time and we paid a reciprocal visit to Kampala at Nicky’s invitation. With several Olympians in the RGI lineup the spectators were charged an entranced fee. But the visitors failed to live up to their reputation as East African champions as most of the players were tripping over the powdered white lines on the ground because of the many cocktails consumed on a hellish journey that took 24 hours as the bus broke down on several occasions. Not to mention lack of sleep (that’s no excuse). But the RGI cricket team made up for that loss by thumping the Horizons at the famous Lugogo Stadium. One of the many highlights of this memorable sports visit were the two Golden Jubilee Variety Shows choreographed by my Daily Nation colleague Cyprian Fernandes. On our return home a very happy Nicky loaded 12 bottles of waragi and mixes on the bus. Would you believe that someone on the bus stole all the waragi, but was kind enough to leave the mixes behind for the other thirsty passengers.

As sports editor of the Nation group I hired Nicky to write a weekly column on Uganda sports for the Sunday Nation and it drew a healthy readership as no other East African newspaper had a weekly column dedicated to that country’s sports scene. In 1992 Nicky put out a 12-page sports newspaper highlighting the achievements of Goan sportsmen and women and that too was warmly received.
In Montreal Nicky was responsible for an annual darts tournament. Just as the Gold Cup tournament attracted the cream of field hockey teams to Nairobi every Easter, the tournament in Montreal drew friends and families from across Canada. It was a huge success for several years before running out of steam.

Because of his organizational skills, in 2016 Nicky was called upon by former Uganda hockey star Malkit Singh of London to head a local committee to celebrate a Jambo and Kwaheri Wazees get together in Toronto. In typical Nicky fashion he helped round up at least 200 of Malkit’s buddies from around the world for the celebration that included Kenya captain and three-time Olympian Avtar Singh from Nairobi. Avtar joined several other former East African men’s and women’s internationals for a night of partying in Toronto. Malkit also somehow managed to rope in one of the world’s greatest sprinters Ben Johnson who, in my opinion, was wrongly banned and made to return his 100 metres gold medal on a doping charge at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

If Nicky made his mark as a sport administrator he will also always be remembered as a brilliant travel advisor. He had few equals in this field as well. Nicky, Errol Francis and Zenon de Souza and a few others owe their success to the late Al Lobo, the Goan godfather of the travel business. Nicky continued where he left off in Uganda by opening branches in Montreal, Halifax and Calgary before establishing himself in Toronto. In the last couple of years Al Lobo and Nicky joined forces again and organized several top-flight excursions around the world until Al passed away unexpectedly a year ago.

In 2012 Nicky organized put a package together to tour Mumbai, Goa and Kerala and the general consensus of the 42 who signed up was that it was by far the very best tour they had ever been on. Nicky housed us at five and seven-star hotels in Kerala and the highlight was the two-day Kerala backwater cruise. It’s usually a one-night sail but Nicky decided on a two-night jaunt as we had to consume all the scotch purchased at the duty free in Mumbai. And we did. It would be a sin to waste the booze.

Nicky had a solid base of ex-Ugandan expatriates based in Canada and the U.S. who would only book with him because of the flawless reputation he had earned. “He was thorough in every trip he organized and those who travelled with him had nothing but the highest praise for him because of his attention to every detail,’’ said de Zenon de Souza, who was with a rival company. “He was a good-hearted man and what endeared him to all was he always supported youngsters and the Goan community,’’ added de Souza. “He was straight shooter and this is what we all liked about him.”

Nicky was certainly one of a kind and he will be missed.
   XXXX


FUNERAL DETAILS

Visitation: 
GLEN OAKS FUNERAL HOME
3164 Ninth Line, Oakville
Sunday, November 3, 2019 between 6p.m.-9p.m.
Mass:
ST. MARY STAR OF THE SEA
11 Peter Street South, Mississauga 
Monday, November 4, 2019 at 11am

Reception to follow after mass at: 
PEARSON CONVENTION CENTER
2638 Steeles Avenue South, Brampton


We encourage you to wear an athletic jersey (for the reception only), to commemorate his passion for sports. The family requests that In lieu of flowers, donations to a charity in Uganda would be the closest to his heart:  gf.me/u/v9sgby













2 comments:

  1. Nicky, it was an immense pleasure and a great honour having known you for a couple of years before Idi Amin drove a wedge between us. You always watched over all of us, and there is no doubt you will continue doing the same from your ringside seat in Heaven, while enjoying the company of the Lord and as we wait to join you as per His plan. I wish your family the strength and courage to bear your temporary loss. Your fond memories will keep us all going. Affectionately, Kuldeep Nayer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dearest Sybil and Novarro,
    Thank you for letting me know!
    Warmest regards.
    K.

    ReplyDelete