- A Former International Goalkeeper
he played along with Elijah Lidonde, Joe Kadenge,
Stephen Ochieng, Isack Lugonzo (who later became
Nairobi) and Alfred Okoth
CONTRIBUTED BY CORRESPONDENT
De’ Mello, Kenya’s former International football Goalkeeper and a
man with immense sense of humour, is no more.
grand old man died last Thursday, aged 79 at a
hospital after a short illness.
mid 1940s to late 60’s, Oscar was the only
non-African Goalkeeper to have played for
month before he passed away, he had the opportunity
to give his soccer experience to guest writer WILLIAM
a Kenyan of Goan-Portuguese descent,
developed a love for soccer at a very tender
age and his interest developed more in the
sport than in academics, though he was also
good at his studies.
on 21st August, 1930 in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania (then Tanganyika), Oscar’s life,
hasn’t been a bed of roses like the rest,
as he was orphaned at a very young age, but
later he rose to become a soccer legend.
was however raised and brought up at St Joseph’s Convent in Dar, when the then Bishop
Edgar Miranta took custody of the siblings
who included his brother and four sisters.
spent most of his time while in school, on
the field and whenever teachers found him
absent in the classroom.
a recent interview at his Kileleshwa home, Nairobi.
would look for him at the playground, knowing that
he would be there and sometimes on his own, so much
so that soccer seems to run in his veins.
started off his career in the forward line, but at
the age of eleven, a bout of Asthma attack forced
him to switch to the goal, as his colleagues
insisted that it was a better place to rest between
the goal-posts, to prevent him from consistent
coughing after running.
he was 14, his eldest sister got married and so the
new family decided to take care of the remaining
siblings and they left the convent.
After schooling, Oscar got employed as an
apprentice with the then East African Railways and
Harbours (EAR&H), doing clerical work in Dar,
earning a meagre 100/- per month, this amount was
however quiet reasonable in those years, he
first approached the Goan Institute in Dar, but they
declined to accept him, prompting him to instead
form a club called Dar Wanderers in 1945, making it
a multi-racial team comprising of all his ex-school
He made a major breakthrough in his career at
16 years of age, Oscar made his first major
breakthrough in his career.
This was when he played his first
international match representing
against a UK
team that visited the country.
here on, it was no looking back, as he kept playing
international matches for
for the next ten years.
a non-African, Oscar was not selected to
represent the country for the East African
challenge Cup, which was called Gossage Cup
then, as it was only meant for Africans and
a naval war ship H.M.S Kenya from
docked at Dar, they had semi-professional
soccer players on board.
foreign team played three matches with
African combine, Asia and European, they
played Africa and beat them 1-0, they had a
barren draw with
and trounced the European team 11-0.
European combine requested they meet again
and wanted to make a change, bringing in
Oscar as their guest goal-keeper.
how he was exclusively selected to play?
remarked: “Goans were never considered as
Asians in the pre-colonial era, they were
categorised as Europeans, because of their
western lifestyle and the Portuguese
relationship they have”.
demonstrates how he
did it in his hey days.
the first half of the match, the opponent’s
goal-keeper never had a chance to handle the ball,
in fact the foreigners dominated the match and a
constant threat at their host goal-mouth, where
Oscar was the custodian and he pulled several
the end we settled for a 1-1 draw and the sailors
carried me shoulder high, saying that I was the man
of the match, a thrill I never experienced in life.
“They even hosted a party in my honour at the
club they were staying and I felt overawed,” he
still a member of the Referees Association as a
third class referee, Oscar abandoned Dar Wanderers
in 1950 to join Sunderland FC, whose patron, Ali Bin
Said saw the potential in him requesting that he
plays which he obliged.
He was thus the first non-African to play for
an African team in those days.
1956 Oscar moved to Nairobi
1956, an ex team-mate, Peter Pinto approached me
saying that OXO EA Ltd an agent for Tanganyika
Packers had a vacancy for a clerical officer in
Nairobi and asked me if I was interested to take up
the offer which I whole-heartedly did and decided to
travel to Nairobi.
The same year, I joined one of the top teams
in the City called Nairobi Heroes which was a
multi-racial team and I felt comfortable here,” he
and self steered Nairobi Heroes to a success and the
Football Association of Kenya (FAK) spotted
Oscar’s myriad talents and he was soon selected to
in all its international matches.
played along with prominent big names like Sir
Stanley Matthews from Blackpool,
who was also knighted by the Queen of England,” he
In 1960 he organized Nairobi Heroes to play outside
matches in Tanzania and Mozambique.
Oscar however admits that the team never
performed well in Lorenco Marques, as he claims he
had too much on his head.
“One of the main reasons was that at that
time, I was busy courting my long time girl friend,
Zelia, whom I later married and she bore me two
beautiful daughters, Louisa and Valerie,” he said
with a broad smile.
and Valerie, were Kenyan tennis aces
and Valerie later grew up to become Kenya’s
international Lawn Tennis stars in mid 70’s and
brought Kenya fame by representing the country in
several international events.
Today both sisters are still active tennis
players in Canada.
Heroes were second in the Commercial league table,
but in 1965, there was a mass exodus of Nairobi
Heroes players due to Africanisation.
“Around or about the same period, I also
acquired Kenyan Citizenship.
“I had to quit the club and join Nairobi Spurs
and the same year became a member of the FA of
Kenya, he disclosed.
the early 60’s, Oscar recalls that while
officiating as a match referee, during the Abaluhya
FC (now AFC Leopards) v/s Luo united (now Gor Mahia),
he was stoned by spectators at the then Doonholm
road stadium (Nairobi Stadium today) for not
favouring one of the teams.
my hey days in football, a white man who watched my
performance in between the goal, approached me and
requested that I travel to Europe to play
tell you the truth, I was really confused and
didn’t know what to do, but on the other hand, the
person never opened up to tell me how much was
involved and what I was worth and hence I turned
down the offer,” Oscar affirms.
the early 70’s Oscar’s soccer career came to an
abrupt halt, when he suffered a serious knee injury
through a torn cartilage.
This prompted a major knee operation, causing
the Kenyan champion to hang his boots forever.
Government appointed Oscar as FAK
treasurer in 1973
is still more reason to exalt, when in 1973, the
Government appointed Oscar the treasurer of FA of
Kenya, with Martin Shikuku (who later became the
Butere MP) as Interim Chairman to sort out the mess
in the Federation.
The late Michael Kijana Wamalwa was also
appointed in the committee.
says that ten percent of the gate proceedings at the
FA Cup never reached the federation.
All clubs affiliated to the FA of Kenya were
asked to appoint a new committee to ensure the fair
running of soccer in the country.
fact FA of Kenya, had experienced similar problems
of what is currently going on today in KFF-
mismanagement,” he explains.
Kenya at FIFA 1974 Congress in Mexico
1974, Wamalwa proposed that Shikuku and I represent
the country in the FIFA congress in
during the World Cup matches.
“I was overwhelmed and proud to represent Kenya.
was my most rewarding task in my football career, to
attend a congress of this magnitude and also have
the opportunity to watch the World Cup matches live,
which included the finals played between
many people were happy with me heading the treasury
of the FA of Kenya, because I was conscientious with
money and every cent had to be accounted for.
“At the next AGM, the members ganged up and
oust me as the treasurer, as they wanted someone who
was more flexible with the funds.
“I did not complain, but quit honourably,
knowing that I left behind a legacy of trust and
honesty, accepting defeat,” he adds.
his soccer career, he played along with other famed
players like Elijah Lidonde, Joe Kadenge, Stephen
Ochieng, Isack Lugonzo (who later became the Nairobi
mayor) and Alfred Okoth.
said he represented
in many foreign matches including Mozambique,
Burundi, and Ethiopia.
also played against All India (which fielded at
least nine Olympic Games players), played against England, Sweden.
hit by tragedy as wife, Zelia, dies in a car crash
worse time in life came in 1980, when his wife Zelia
died in a tragic road accident near the Museum Hill
road in Westlands.
“My wife had just come from Parklands
Sports club, to find out when the girls will be
playing their next Under-18 match.
“She was driving her Honda Civic car, when
suddenly an over speeding bus failed to stop at the
junction and rammed into my wife’s car throwing
her metres away and she was later pronounced dead on
arrival at the hospital, he says with tears rolling
down his cheeks.
death was a big blow in Oscar’s life as she was a
driving force behind his success and this totally
shattered the family.
“I considered Zelia as the pillar of my
life and she was good in everything, giving me every
encouragement in life,” says Oscar.
prompted him in later years, to marry a young Kenyan
woman, Ambia, with whom he has a son, Tony who is 11
years old and a pupil of St Mary’s school in
Like father like son, Tony is already fully active
in sports and loves to take an advice or two from
his dad’s rich football experience.
man who had immense sense of humour looked younger
than his age, because his diet was very simple.
loved to have fruits with corn flakes and honey for
breakfast every morning.
His day started off at 5 a.m. On getting up,
he would first pray to God for having given him
another bright day, before he could get into his
sports gear and jog a little within the compound of
his posh Kileleshwa mansion, which was built 40
soccer Oscar had been also active in Hockey having
played in the Gold Cup.
His hobbies also included playing
Table-tennis, Cricket, travelling, stamp collecting
etc but soccer superseded everything in life for
spent most of his time watching soccer on television
and loved to fill the Suduku crossword puzzles in
the newspapers every day.
The former soccer star
received a lot of guests from abroad who stayed at
his home, where he was always available to provide
the necessary hospitality.
went through his archive with nostalgia, as he
showed this writer a heap of scrap-books and albums
with the many press-clippings and photographs of
himself, which he collected over the years.
In his sporting days, he met personalities
from other fields and also came across other soccer
stars like Sir Stanley Matthews of England and
’s Seraphino Antao among others.
star’s popularity on Nairobi
was marvelled by Oscar’s popularity in Nairobi.
many would not know that the grand old man, was once
the pride of Kenya’s soccer, he was still a respected figure in the
He was not only a household name in the
soccer fraternity, but in the entire
I went with Oscar, places like the malls or the
Casinos, both the old and young loved to crack a
joke or two with this jovial character.
is inhabited by a people with natural affinity to
Sports and the country can excel well in
professional soccer if the right mechanism is put in
can become a super-power in the sport, not only in
but the world at large,” he asserted.
observed that it is distressing to see the standard
of soccer deteriorating in the country, adding that
something is flagrantly wrong with the management.
believed that for a country to have a strong and
successful team there is need for politicians to
keep off meddling in soccer activities.
“They should however give other technical
and financial assistance but not run the affairs of
the soccer body, “explained the once ardent former
has held numerous positions in 1981.
He was a council member of the KLTA and was
in the sub-committee of the Junior Tennis and the
Public Relations officer.
playing active soccer, Oscar worked for Brooke Bond
in 1963 and later joined Lufthansa Air Cargo in 1974
where he was appointed as the Cargo Sales
representative and retired as the Deputy Cargo
manager in mid 90’s.
He later ventured into private business, but
due to numerous obstacles for example mistrust by
his clients he decided to wind up his business.
transversed across the Globe during his hey days,
but kept repeating time and again that there is no
better place to reside than Kenya.
This he believed was due to the friendly and undiscriminating
attitude of the indigenous Kenyans and also the
country’s climatic conditions, that has made Kenya
to be considered as the paradise of Africa, and
indeed here he finally rest in eternal peace,
ultimately making Kenya his permanent home in abode.
will be sadly missed not only by his family members,
but to the huge
populace his name is engraved in nostalgic history.
He will be mourned by the whole community.
circle of his friends at the Casinos in
where he spent most of his time, described Oscar as
a “perfect gentleman”.
remains were cremated in a private funeral ceremony
on Wednesday, after a church service at the
in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.
We pay our last respect to the fallen soccer
legend and wish his family the strength during this
God rest his soul in eternal Peace.
'96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02,
'03, '04, '05, '06, 07, 08, 2009.
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