The funeral and cremation of former national cricketer Sheldon Gomes will take place on Sunday in Las Vegas, United States. And below is a tribute to the all-round sportsman from Selby Browne, president of the Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, a former teammate.
When news of the passing of Sheldon Gomes was received on Wednesday September 15, 2020, all our tightly bonded Queens Royal College cricket and football teammates of the late 1960’s shed a silent tear.
I therefore immediately wish to extend condolences to the entire Gomes family, and in particular to Sheldon’s wife, children and grandchildren and we pray that big sister Dianne and the girls and brother Larry and the boys, would be strengthened during this difficult time of mourning.
Sheldon Gomes was born in Arima on October 18, 1950, the second son of Pa Cecil Gomes and mom Kimlan. His four brothers Lester, Larry, Gregory and Randy all played sport and the girls, all five, were very supportive. In the close-knit Pro Queen Street family, the boys all literally walked across the road to the savannah where, with Pa Cecil, and several youngsters they became proficient at all sports.
Sheldon was a student at Holy Cross College but later moved to QRC and went on to represent the College with distinction at both cricket and football in 1967 and 1968.
At football, Sheldon was an excellent header of the ball who, in spite of his five-foot-five-inch frame, defied gravity from a standing position with minimal effort. He was a deadly striker who turned sharply and apart from lethal headers, he had a powerful shot with both feet. His speed and ability to read the game made him an excellent footballer. How well I recall when taking corners or hitting the ball from either wing, I would call to him “S. Gomes” and his response when in position was - “S. Browne”. The other “S” on the team was Stephen Gomez. We were the “Three S’s.”
In the 1967 season, QRC were crowned North Colleges champions.
Ian Jeffers was our captain with other players being Brian Bain, Terry Thornhill, Stephen Gomez, Andre Pollard, Roger Mathew, Reynold Mc Kenzie, Raymond Borel, Kenley Rudder, Anthony Halfhide, Rolph Clarke, Jesse Blackman, Neil Springer, Garnett Harris, Earl Best, Patrick Rabathally and Larry Springer. We all made it our duty to protect Sheldon who was repeatedly targeted.
The 1968 season was even more memorable as QRC became Colleges League champions.
How well I remember the opening match on Saturday 14th September 1968. QRC met the St Benedict’s team in that match at the Queens Park Oval. St Benedict’s were the National League and InterCol winners of the 1967 season (the titles were later stripped from them) and QRC were the North Champions. QRC won the opening match and did not lose a match in the League that year and Sheldon was our outstanding goalscorer.
As QRC cricket teammates, Sheldon would score a century on any given Saturday afternoon. At that time, we played against the adult teams like Maple, Crompton, Shannon, Paragon and Queens Park Club.
Apart from his batting prowess, Sheldon was exceptional fielding close up or in the covers where his knowledge, anticipation, quick movement and safe pair of hands,
made it difficult for batsmen to score runs freely. After fielding in a cricket match, we would tell him he was going to bat with a plus of 50 runs. To which his response was, “I would only make the runs if I bat well”.
Earl Best was our cricket captain and the 1967 team included; Ronald Navarro, Selby Browne, Clifford Murray, Garnett Harris, Anthony Lewis, Roger Mathew, Rolph Clarke, Reynold Mc Kenzie, Andre Pollard, Stephen Gomez and several others.
Sheldon went on to represent Trinidad and Tobago while at college. Younger brother Larry was selected to both the T&T and West Indies teams.
After leaving school, I recall while Sheldon represented Trinidad and Tobago against Jamaica in Jamaica, he registered his highest first-class score with an innings of 213 runs in the 1977 season. But in Sheldon’s early knocks for the T&T, he encountered a most unfortunate challenge, being out without scoring on more than
one occasion. We were all devastated and several of us reached out to him which we knew he would have immediately done if it was one of us. His usual smile and acceptance were there but we knew he was hurting.
The opportunity arose for me to remind him that in one of our practise sessions at the cricket nets while at college, our coaches Lennie Kirton, Gervais Hannays and Rex Dewhurst, pointed out that he was bringing the bat from the direction of third man and that action offered one point of contact, which with his quick eye sight and excellent timing proved okay. They also stated that Sheldon should focus on bringing the bat from directly behind the straight line of the ball in the event that he would face a genuine quick bowler. With a smile he acknowledged the reminder and the rest was history. Good history.
In 2008 at the 40th Anniversary celebration for the historic QRC 1968 team that won the Colleges Football League, we all thanked Sheldon for his enormous contribution as we reminisced on the great days.