Walter The Rock Of Gibralter
Walter de Sousa was a Goan sportsman excelling in both hockey as well as football. Blessed with a slim athletic body, great reflexes and a quick mind he was a natural sportsman.
Of Goan descent and a product of Jesuit education it is not surprising that
sports journalist Aziz Currimbhoy described him as ” a perfect gentleman - well educated, well spoken and suave".
In hockey he represented India in the 1947 East Africa Tour, the 1948 London Olympic Tour and captained Bombay in 10 Nationals. Though hockey was his forte his achievements in football were as impressive, representing Bombay and the Western India Football Association in several Nationals. In 1953 Walter captained the Indian Cultural League and created history by bringing the IFA Shield out of Calcutta for the first time defeating East Bengal.
The Early Years
Walter was born in Mbale, Uganda in East Africa. His father Thomas Rosario Epifanio dos Reis de Sousa was from Aldona, Goa where the family can trace its roots back to 1792.
His mother Lucilia Quiteria da Lima was from Porvorim, Goa. Thomas Epifanio worked for the British government in Uganda, Africa. When the family returned to India they settled down in Bangalore.
Walter and his brother attended the Saint Joseph's Boys European High School, a Jesuit institution that has produced several sportsmen including fellow Olympic teammate Pat Jansen as well as several others like Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Vece Paes … It was here in Saint Josephs School that Walter began his hockey career playing as a wing-half. When he was older he played for the Bangalore Blues, a local team.
On completing his education Walter moved to Bombay in 1942 and joined the black & white brigade of the Times Of India. It was then that Bombay got it’s first glimpse of the great Walter de Sousa playing on the Bombay Provincial Hockey Association (BPHA) old ground at Churchgate. He was outstanding and his presence in the team ensured that the pressmen were the Runner-Up in the First Division of the Bombay Hockey League.
Walter The Lusitanian
The year 1943 was a landmark year for Walter. He donned the maroon and blue colours of the famed Lusitanians, a team he remained loyal to till 1956.
In the years to come, to his thousands of his fans he was never Walter The Olympian but Walter The Lusitanian!
And to his adoring Goan fans who often forgoed a meal so that they could watch the Lusitanians play he was Walty The Lusitanian
Little wonder then that sports journalist Aziz Currimbhoy wrote of Walter It is surprising that though Walter is an Olympian, the crowds know, applaud and worship him as a Lusitanian full-back only. It's never Walter the Olympian ..... it's always Walter the Lusitanian".
That year The Lusitanians sent their fans wild with ecstasy by winning the Provincial Cup, The Lewis Cup and securing a runners-up in the Aga Khan tournament.
In 1944 Walter captained The Lusitanians and with Johnny Pinto as the left inner won the coveted Aga Khan and then in the late 1940s won the prestigious Madras Gold cup. In the ensuing years under the captaincy of Walter the Lusitanians won several tournaments
Many critics and sports journalists consider 1950 as the greatest year in Walter’s sports career even greater than 1948 when he represented India in the London Olympics and was called the World’s Ace Hockey Wizard Of The Year by the press. In fact after a series of memorable matches against the Punjab Police legendary sports critic and journalist AFS Talyarkhan said “Walter has made an immortal of himself”
The 1947 East Africa Tour
In 1947 Walter sent the Goan fans in British East Africa to raptures when he was selected for the East Africa Tour . He was their boy. They knew him as a tot and now he was making a triumphant return to the land of his birth donning India’s colours in hockey.
The East Africa Tour was a long trip covering Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
To Walter it was a dream to be able to play in Mbale the town where he was born. The team was captained by none other than hockey legend Dyan Chand.
The 1948 London Olympic Tour Tour
The 1948 Olympic games were of special significance to India. They were the first Olympic Games where India participated as a Free & Independent India.
The 1948 Olympic Games were also a matter of pride for Goa & Goans. This tiny state still under Portuguese rule had five of its sons in the team – Walter de Sousa, Leo Pinto, Maxi Vaz, Lawrie Fernandes & Reggie Rodrigues. In 2010 this tiny coastal state honoured the fabulous five by releasing a Postal Cover featuring them
The Olympic tour was a long but memorable tour that began with the Olympic Games from July 29 – August 14, 1948. Then ‘laden with gold’ the team embarked on a tour of Europe covering Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia and only returned home to a well-deserved hero’s welcome on September 24, 1948
As with hockey Walter started his football career with the Times Of India in 1942. The following year he shifted to The Young Goans who made football history by winning the Nadkarni Cup for three consecutive years.
In the late 1940s he moved to the Saint Francis Goans the stormy team of Bombay football.
It was in the early 1950s that Walter moved to the darlings of Bombay football - the Indian Cultural League (ICL) where along with Leslie Woodcock he played as a full back It was in 1953 under his captaincy that ICL created history by bringing the IFA Shield out of Calcutta for the first time ever by defeating Mohan Bagan
Walter passed away suddenly in 1989 after a brief illness. Among others his funeral was attended by fellow Olympians Leo Pinto & Lawrie Fernandes. His wife Jessie passed away in 2017.
They are survived by their four children Dr Cheryl de Sousa, Dr Keith de Sousa, Dr Valerian de Sousa PhD and Patrick de Sousa
In 1993 the city of Mumbai honoured him by naming a garden after him.