GOA BIDS TEARFUL ADIEU TO CHARISMATIC COMMENTATOR.
Daniel F de Souza.
Well-known TV football commentator and Goa’s most adorable and admired football administrator Noel da Lima Leitao was laid to rest at the St. Andrew’s cemetery Vasco amidst a sea of grieving family, friends, football lovers, players, club representatives, Senior Government Officers, Administrators, Ministers, politicians and people from all walks of life who came to pay their final respects to someone who touched each one of them in many different ways. The funeral cortege left his palatial mansion at Vaddem to the St. Andrew’s church for the Eucharistic service and final rites and burial at 4 p.m.
It is not always that one can witness such a massive assembly of people at funerals, but, in the case of Noel it was just that. Rev. Fr. Jose Antonio da Costa parish priest of St. Andrews parish concelebrated the funeral mass with 14 other priests. In his introductory words at the mass service Fr. Jose Antonio da Costa said “Noel was a friend to all, and a man for everyone. He was kind hearted, loving, cheerful and committed to any cause, a devout person. Today his family is in deep sorrow as also his numerous friends. He was a gifted man who could unite and build communities with his loving nature. His youthful voice over the TV network was loved by millions of friends across the globe”.
As a prelude to the funeral service Emiliano D Cruz rendered a violin solo as the stream of mourners filed in silently and in grief after the coffin was brought in and placed before the altar. Late Noel’s four daughters sang the hymn ‘Lord I offer my Life’ during the mass service in harmonious voices. During the communion service Padmashree Remo Fernandes rendered a touching and melancholy solo recital ‘ Farewell to a friend’ his own composition on the flute, while the choir took a break. The entire congregation listened in pin drop silence and attention as the touching notes flew from the wooden instrument. Post communion the Cota choir sang the hymn ‘Ave Maria’ in a classical version, a hymn that Noel during life time loved and sang very often. Dattaraj V. Salgaocar MD V. M. Salgaocar Bros ltd., a close friend and confidante of Noel da Lima who was present at the funeral with his wife Deepti, read out a touching and glowing tribute to his childhood friend and companion which literally brought tears to many an eye. He recalled the happy times they spent together and extolled the qualities of head and heart of Noel. In an emotionally charged voice Raj said ‘Entire world is sad, for we have lost a true friend, a true champion. Time will not heal this wound caused by his sudden and untimely demise.
Noel was a good human being and a finest person on this planet. Above all the things in life, he most valued the gift of life itself and the gift of his wife Nayantara whom he loved a lot. We have in the past often sung the song ‘Knocking on Heavens door’ together. But today the staircase to heaven was laid down to receive him first. At this moment let us not grieve for the loss of our friend, but let us look back and recall how he loved us, for our loss is heavens gain. Noel, we will some day together sing ‘Knocking on heavens door’ in heaven once again” he concluded .
As a mark of respect, the President and members of GFA led by their president Joaquim Alemao carried the coffin from the altar to the main door of the church outside. From here the football players of Vasco Sports Club dressed with the club jerseys, of which Noel was the patron carried the coffin to the cemetery which was draped in the Vasco club black and white flag. It was truly a sad and painful moment to all present there to see the man who enjoyed a larger than life image, and so passionately loved and nurtured the game of football lying lifeless in the wooden coffin and on his last lap to his final resting place.
As a mark of tribute Noel’s brother in-law played and sang Noel’s favourite song ‘Knocking on Heaven’s door’ on the organ after the service. The atmosphere in the church was charged and there was a look of sadness and grief all around, for everyone irrespective of their social background they came to bid a final adieu to someone they loved and adored for all that he was in life, a true gentleman to the core and a great human being. Noel’s sister Natasha in a choked voice paid rich and touching tributes to her beloved brother as also his daughter Chantale extolled the qualities of her Papa while Alisha his elder daughter thanked the congregation. The church was full of family and friends and overflowing with mourners. The newly constructed side wing of the church on the Port-side end was thrown open and used to seat the people, besides a shamiana also accommodated people on the outside. There were closed circuit TVs installed so that no one missed the solemn funeral service. The parish priest Fr. Da Costa who was personally saddened by the sad demise of Noel, left no stone unturned to ensure that the funeral service was smooth in all respect befitting a man who lived and loved life to the fullest.
The entire parish council of members worked for 3 days in preparation for the funeral service under the guidance of the parish priest and rendered all assistance at the service. The Vasco police and the traffic cell did a marvelous job in controlling the traffic and organized systematic parking in and around the church compound. It is often said; Life has two uninvited guests, Love and death. Sadly and unexpectedly the second guest arrived uninvited a little too early and took away Noel da Lima for an eternal companionship. But for his family and numerous friends Noel will forever live in their hearts.
n.b.: This report appeared in today's (17/9/09) Gomantak Times.