Teammates mourn Gomez

Kern De Freitas
Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

Pat GomezPat Gomez

When Pat Gomez died recently in Ontario, Canada at the age of 78, Trinidad and Tobago lost not just a reputable footballer, but a legend between the uprights in the earlier days of T&T football.

Gomez was ailing for some time before losing his battle with cancer last month.

In most arguments amongst his peers, Gomez was largely touted as the best goalkeeper Trinidad and Tobago ever produced.

Prominent on the list of T&T's top custodians of the last century, Gomez's name would many a time be compared favourably among other former great national goalies, such as his immediate successors, Joey Gonsalves and Lincoln "Tiger" Phillips, respectively.

Gomez moved to Canada in the 1970s after an illustrious career in T&T sport, not just as a famed goal-keeper, but as a talented hockey outfield player, and a lesser-known but competent cyclist.

According to long-time friend Aubrey Welch, who also resides in Canada, Pat had the rare distinction of captaining both North and South Trinidad hockey and football teams in the infamous rivalries decades ago.

He also captained Trinidad and Tobago in football, to Pan Am hockey silver in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967, and skippered the only West Indies football team ever assembled on their tour to England in 1959.

On the cycling track he once beat the "A" Class field while riding as an intermediate cyclist.

William "Willie" Rodriguez, one of T&T's past outstanding sportsmen with the distinction of playing both football and cricket for his country and the West Indies, recalled what it was like to play alongside Gomez.

"He had very sharp reflexes," Rodriguez related. "He read the game pretty well from his goalkeeping position, which meant he anticipated a lot of the possible shots. His athleticism made him sort of difficult to pass."

The flamboyant goalie, known for his great reflex saves, was a welcome addition to any team.

"It (having Pat in goal) gave you the confidence in front where you could screen off players and give him a chance to rush out from a distance, and he would save the goal," said Rodriguez.

The former Queen's Park Cricket Club president recalled one performance of Gomez's--who he described as affable-- that stood out to this day.

"In 1955, when England came to Trinidad and played against Trinidad, three games, and North one. We were beaten 1-0, but he was fantastic in that game. He saved umpteen goals. It was a brilliant performance."

Phillips, the current Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation technical director, also remembered Gomez for his good nature and sportsmanship.

"He was a very approachable guy, very much a team-oriented player, and a very good leader. He always had time for others. (As) a young goalkeeper coming up he would always find time to give me a few extra tips if I had a question," Phillips said.

Phillips also revealed that Gomez was one of the players who inspired him to perform well between the uprights.

"I used to see him practicing outside of Casuals Club (at the Queen's Park Savannah) and I would see him diving all over the place, just cat-like and so agile, and these were some of the things that inspired me."

For his club in the 1950s, Casuals, Gomez stood tall and proudly between strikers and their prize.

"Casuals was not a very strong team, but you had to beat Pat," Phillips explained. "Woe be unto the team that they get a goal on. It would be very, very difficult to score on him. He was really short in stature, but he had a good presence and it was very difficult to score on him."

Gomez is survived by a daughter, Luanne, and three sons, Brennan, Kirk and Wade, as well as his wife Monica.

Welch also weighed in his thoughts on a man whose reputation far exceeded his height.

"In my opinion he was a really, really good sportsman, real, real great guy and a friend. He lost the battle with cancer. He fought and fought and fought and sometimes you just lose to these things."