TRIBUTES TO LATE MR GEORGE F. GOMEZ (September 17, 1938 - September 1st 2020)
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln
In times like this, a man in my position is faced with two options: to say as it is or not to say as it is; thereby dressing the dead in borrowed robes. I refuse to go low to do the latter but here was a man whose productive nature makes one wonder if any single man in the span of eighty-two years could serve and accomplish so much in a single lifetime.
Born in Bathurst on September 17 th 1938, George Francis Gomez was the first son of Furmose (Karofan) and Mam Marie Gomez nee Sylva. He was the son who defied the odds to craft his own unique history that would stand the test of times. His educational career began at St. John’s Infant School. Thereafter he proceeded to St. Augustine’s Primary and then St. Augustine Secondary School. He started his tertiary education at the then Yundum College (now Gambia College) in 1956 and after his graduation proceeded to Tooting Bee Hospital School in London in1964. Other Professional Institutions he passed through were Croydon College of Design and Technology, Polytechnic of North London which is now the University of North London, Cheswick Polytechnic of London, Institute of Public Administration, University of Dublin, Republic of Ireland and King’s College in London.
It is said that investment in knowledge pays the best interest thus after his academic journey, he served as a Personnel Management Officer in England for some years. He was also a Nurse Tutor at the St. Augustine Hospital in Cambridge, UK and have also served as a General Nursing Council Examiner in England before returning home to contribute his quota in the socio-cultural development of The Gambia. He was appointed as the first Gambian hospital Administrator at the Royal Victoria Hospital now Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, a position he held for fourteen years (1977 to 1991).
George was not only a successful health Administrator, but a sports Administrator as well. He served as Secretary General and later President of The Gambia Football Association (GFA) now renamed Gambia Football Federation (GFF). He was also a former Coach of The Gambia National Football Team from 1978-1979. Due to his vast knowledge and technical experience in football, he was assigned to draft the Bid Document for the Gambia to host the U17 CAF Youth Tournament which was held in the Gambia in 1995. He was a member of the National Task Force that led to the Development of a Sport Council in 1998 for The Gambia and he
served as a Resource person in the drafting of The National Sport Policy and Plan of Action in 1999. George Gomez joined the Olympic family after being appointed to serve as Executive Director of the Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOSC), a position he held for over a decade. During his successful stint at the Olympic office, he also served as Secretary to the GNOC National Awards Committee from 1997 to 2009. He had served as Chef de Mission for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic, the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the 2006 Olympic Games in Melbourne and at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He was appointed Executive Secretary of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) Region, Zone 11, which consists of eight countries in 2008.
Suffice it to say, Mr. Gomez’s love for sports could be traced back in his teens. He excelled in the disciplines he played. Prominent among them was athletics and Football. He was a mainstay in the Augustinians FC. He was part of The Gambia's only team to have defeated Senegal in a competitive game. He was not only a mesmerizing winger, but a speedster to a point that he was hailed to be the fastest winger in the sub-region. This earned him the nickname, 404 (The fastest car at the time made by the French company, Peugeot) He as well thrived in long-distance running (the Medley Mile) and 800 meters setting a national record that stood for a decade. He was also a member of the control Group for Plymouth- Banjul Challenge from 2003 cum Chairman since 2012. His love for sports and integration is also manifested in the conception of the idea of the Senegambia Run for Integration; he designed and implemented the project with the help of a colleague, Mr Adama Bah. The relay run from Banjul to Dakar which started in January 2019 is organized by Camp Africa to which George Gomez was a co-director.
We grief for we lost a selfless soul. Uncle George had made arrangements with Kid Aid to provide mainly football kits and distributed them to grass root football clubs and schools in The Gambia and Senegal; the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and Division of Physical and Natural Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences, University of The Gambia were not left out from being beneficiaries of his magnanimity. Uncle George tested and thrived in the entertainment industry. He was the organizer of the First beauty pageant in The Gambia in 1963. He later became president of the brand, Banjul-Ziguinchor (Banzig) miss competition. He founded and became Chief Executive, Gomis Promotions and started Organizing Miss Gambia, Miss Tourism and Miss Elegance in1990.
During his time studying in England, George co-founded and became Secretary General of The Gambia Friendship Society. Through this body he and his colleagues at the time were able to fly the Super Eagles Band to do concerts in England. This made the Super Eagles Band to be recorded in history as one of the first African music groups to play in England. During their stay in London, Uncle George ensured that the band's records were professionally edited in the UK before they headed to Germany to exhibit their talents. After the Kaur Declaration which ushered in the Senegambia Confederation, Uncle Pa Gomez wasted no time in setting up the Miss Senegambia beauty pageant in 1983 to foster closer ties between Gambia and Senegal through power of entertainment.
George Gomez started a lot of other initiatives such as the popular May Day Mass Sports event held every 1st of May, the Ladies “6” A side football, the National wrestling Championship, and the first women in Sports Seminar held in 1998. His love for kids especially those who want to take up sports as a career led him to negotiate with kids Aid for material assistance. This enabled him to in recent years to bring football kits to The Gambia and distribute it to vulnerable kids, youth clubs and schools in The Gambia and Senegal. He was the initiator of the Nurse of the year and Best Ward of the year contest at the Royal Victoria Hospital 1984, ‘The Sponsor a Ward initiative’ was also started by him in 1985 culminating in Banjul City Council (BCC), Social Security & Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), Gambia Utilities Corporation (GUC) now NAWEC and GAMTEL sponsoring Wards at the Gambia’s main referral and teaching hospital. He also started the first born baby of the year award in 1982 He even made foray into the literary world by writing several books. The most prominent are: 'The Dramatized Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ', published in 2009. The book which shows his passion and love for Jesus Christ is said to be the first Religious Book from the Gambia published in the Internet through amazon, booksurge and alibri. ‘From Jerusalem to Calvary’ published in 2010. ‘Milestone of Gambian football’ published in 2017 and ‘St. Augustine: Its history and Accomplishments ‘ published in 2019.
He compiled and published the first Hymns for Christmas and Easter (Blue Book). He was a member of the Editorial Board that compiled and arranged the Book ‘Glory of God, Peace to Men. Alleluia Ave Marie’ in 1998. He also was a member of the Editorial Board that compiled and arranged the Book ‘Forever with the Lord ‘Sa Yol Aldiana La’ in 2002. Pa Gomis as he was fondly called by many was a practising Catholic Christian. He played key roles in the church especially during mega events. The following were among his contributions to his faith.
1. He was Chairman of the Poponguine Organizing Committee for almost two decades. 2. He Proposed the establishment of a shrine in The Gambia in 1983 3. He was Chairman of the Committee charged with the responsibility of searching for a shrine from 1985-1987 4. He was a Founder member of the Knights of St. Peter and Paul established in 1989 5. He coordinated and organized the Gambia Delegation of the Papal visit to Guinea Bissau in 1990 6. He was a Chairman of the Kunkujang Shrine Committee from 1987-1996 7. He coordinated the first ECOWAS Bishop’s Conference in the Gambia in 1992 8. He was Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the ECOWAS Bishop’s Mass in Kunkujag in 1992 9. He was a Member of the Central Organizing Committee for the Papal visit in the Gambia and Chairman of the Sub-Committee in1992 10. He served as Secretary to the pilgrimage Committee to Rome and the Holy Land in 1999 11. He was a founder member of the Inter Faith Dialogue Group in 2005 12. He was the Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee of St. Kizito’s Parish set up in 2008 13. Finally, he travelled to Israel, Jerusalem to perform the pilgrimage in 2019. We will be doing injustice if we fail to recognize the deep affection and religious tolerance George had for other faiths. Despite being a staunch Catholic, he took a loving, respectable, adorable and faithful Muslim woman (Ajaratou Sainabou Samba) as his beloved wife. It has to be said that Aunty Sai was his life support as they fused the varieties of their different cultures and religion to live a happy marriage life until his demise. It has been evidently proven that wherever religious tolerances exist, unity, consistency and freedom will thrive beyond measure.
Uncle George supported Aunty Sai in the practice of her faith. He used to wake her up to perform her daily Fajr prayers, fast the month of Ramadan and drive her around to dish out zakaat to the needy. He used to organize the welcoming ceremony and sacrifice a bull anytime she returned from Mecca after performing the Hajj. Uncle George also used to purchase Tobaski rams for her during the feast of Eid`- Ul -Adha. To sum it all, Uncle George and Aunty Sai have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that as Debasish Mridha coined it, Love was their religion, kindness was their prayer, forgiveness was their temple and peace was their abode. Our beloved George who departed this world recently was the recipient of so many Awards. He won Awards for his heroics in the ‘Singles Tennis Championships at Tooting Bee Hospital, London from 1968-1972. He was awarded by the IOC/GNOSC with a ‘Sport for all awards’ in 1998. He was accredited into the ‘Hall of Fame’ in 1999. He received The Most Outstanding Sport Personality Award in
2002. He also holds a ‘Life Time Achievement Award for the promotion of Music and Culture in The Gambia presented to him in 2009. In the family front, he had been a bright example for us. Throughout his life, he had ensured that he stayed connected to not only his sons and daughters, but anyone connected to the Karofan and Sylva bloodline. Mr. George Gomez was a source of inspiration and role model to many. He was the perfect goodwill ambassador of the motherland and had always demonstrated a high level of patriotism throughout his life. He will surely be missed. Sad to say but in the end, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel and Uncle George has touched our lives in very special ways that we cannot forget. One legacy Uncle George left behind is that he didn’t tell us how to live life; he lived it, and let us watch him do it to the end that we learn from his distinguished personality the fine qualities that made him a perfect gentleman. To borrow from the lines of renowned William Shakespeare I say ‘Here was a legend; when comes yet another?’ But do not grieve for the Lord has a plan for his successors. We should be consoled that he is going to a better place and that the grief we feel now is the price we pay to have had Uncle George in our lives.
So let us all pray for him, his siblings of blessed memory, (Ya Eli Gomez, Ya Ndumbay Silva, Brigitte Ya Serah Gomez, Ya Aret Gomez and Aji Ndey Gomez) and all other souls that have departed this world in the words of the scripture: ‘Father of all, we pray to you for George Francis Gomez, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen Adieu, Uncle George. Rest in peace till we meet again. Gomez Family Tribute
TRIBUTE TO GEORGE GOMEZ -
The famous boxer Muhammad Ali once said: “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision.” And I will add the word determination. It is such a desire, such a dream, such a vision and such a determination that inspired George Gomez a veteran sports person and activist for youth development, the former Executive Director of The Gambia National Olympic Committee and then, one of the Directors of Camp Africa to come up with the idea of starting the SeneGambia Run for Integration. When he first told me the idea of the run, I said George “let’s put this idea aside, you mean run from Banjul to Dakar” I said honestly “Sa Nah door na” meaning you are becoming senile. He said “let me put the idea on paper and we will discuss later” I agreed.
After I think a year or so he came back to the idea. This time he gave me a well written document that started thus: Every major sporting event in the world started modestly from an idea and most of them developed into renowned programs……Ideas have over the years been challenged by sceptics who do not give the idea the same consideration as the one proposing the idea. This idea is developed for Camp Africa to implement and we look forward to everyone’s support for it to succeed.
This document made it. It was obvious that I did not want to be such a “sceptic”. Also it became clearer to me that the run was not a straight 320 km run but was a relay race for three nights: starting from Barra in The Gambia spending the night at Kaolack, Mbour and finally Dakar in Senegal. Typical of George Gomez, he said to me: “In the first instance when you tell the story of the run leave them to think or speculate that the run is a long distance run from Banjul to Dakar. Then they will think you are nuts. When they are interested they will make a second enquiry for the details” I guess a type of marketing gimmick, the idea being: if someone thinks you are crazy and continue to show interest in what you say, then he or she will be convinced when you make things more realistic and achievable. However, at the end I agreed for us to give it a go. I said to him: “Let us make it happen.” We started in January 2017 to make it coincide with the opening of the Farafenni Bridge, now the Senegambia Bridge. It was not been easy especially organising something of this magnitude in The Gambia and Senegal, knowing the history of disagreement between these two countries, especially given the differences in border control.
We had many episodes but eventually we got two successful relay runs between the two countries. I must say, without George’s determination and sometimes firm insistence to see it through, it would not have happened. I started working with George mainly on charity in The Plymouth-Banjul Challenge which is an annual Car Rally event for charity in 2003. The charity had tourism and Sports elements. The sports element was headed by George. The sports charity did many contributions throughout The Gambia. It also contributed to the building of the Gambia National Olympic Committee office complex.
We started Camp Africa together in 2010. Camp Africa was officially launched at Sandele, in Kartong on Saturday 11 th December 2010. It was again launched at the World Travel Market in London on 3 rd November 2013. Since its official launching in 2010, regular annual camps have been organised in The Gambia and figures have increased gradually every year. We had students from 10 different countries from all over the world.
Apart from the camps organised locally, Camp Africa attended 3 camps in England. Over 30 students, teachers and coordinators traveled to England to attend different camping experiences. In 2017, Camp Africa together with Global Hands and Sable Publications partnered to organise the Mboka Festival of Arts Culture and Sport. The festival started in January 2017 and takes place every January as proposed by the founders. The festival encourages cross cultural exchanges. In 2019 Yaram Arts joined the partnership when Global Hands opted to cease their participation. The “back of stage” role played by George Gomez in providing insight and advices on how to manage these events during the festivals was always helpful to the partnership. We will always remember him for his great contributions. George, through his connections in England made it possible to link Camp Africa to KitAid, UK. KitAid, UK is a charitable organization that supports the development of Football in developing countries. Over the years, the collaboration of Camp Africa and KitAid saw the distribution of football kits to schools and grassroot teams in both The Gambia and Senegal. I can go on and on to detail George’s contribution to sports and youth development not only in The Gambia but Senegal too. All I can say is he played his part well in the development of both countries and by extension Africa and for him to keep smiling where he is, let us all play our part.
Adieu George, Rest in power! Adama Bah- 16/09/2020