The most successful first-generation Goan businessman and owner of Sporting Clube de Goa, a popular football team, passed away in Bengaluru on Thursday night. His battle with Covid-19, inside three hospitals, lasted almost a month. His death at the age of 53 shocked the state.
A self-made businessman, who rose high on the strength of his willpower and a sharp mind, Vaz dared to be different. He never used computers or a laptop at his seventh-floor office in the city. Instead, he trusted his own ability to get everything right. He never followed a path that was carved by others. He was never afraid to take the road less travelled.
Vaz studied at the Don Bosco HS in the city, often cycling from his home at Caranzalem to school. He then opted for diploma in engineering at Government Polytechnic, Altinho. It was here that Vaz showed his true colours.
Once, after being left out of the Polytechnic football team’s starting eleven, he packed his bags for home, leaving elder brother Francis—his senior at the college and playing on the field—flabbergasted.
“Peter could never call a spade by any other name. He could never be diplomatic and could never tolerate injustice of any sort,” said his friend Elvis Gomes, a former bureaucrat and football administrator, who has now turned politician.
After passing out from Government Polytechnic, Vaz landed himself a job at the PWD at Vasco as a junior engineer. He was just 22 and had big dreams. But this was a government department where things moved at snail’s pace. That didn’t suit the youngster, who quit his government job after just eight months.
At 22, when most boys dream about their first date, Vaz had much bigger ambitions. Along with Edgar Afonso, he started the Models Group (in 1989), focused on construction and real estate. Over the years, it became a brand synonymous with quality construction buildings in the state and, now, the most trusted developers.
With over 60 real estate projects, Models had little competition, so the company went on to diversify and lend its name to projects in hospitality, cruises and leisure.
“You need to constantly innovate, otherwise you’ll be left behind,” Vaz often said.
Football was always the love of his life. In 1999, Vaz took his love for football to a different level: He took over Cidade de Goa’s football and made it his own. While most bigwigs sponsoring football clubs chose their company name, Vaz didn’t follow that path. He named his club Sporting Clube de Goa, modelled on the famous club with the same name in Portugal.
Sporting Clube made a mark for itself quickly, rising to become India’s more popular and consistent teams, known for its attractive football and bright orange jerseys.
While football made Vaz a popular figure across the country, his philanthropic acts largely went unnoticed, simply because he never cared for mileage. He helped almost anyone who knocked at his door and was extra helpful when it came to his friends, faith, or football. “He most willingly funded the setting up of a primary school in a remote part of Mormugao taluka, the first in that area since liberation,” said another friend, Savio Noronha.
That’s not all. It was Vaz who re-built the Rosary Church at Caranzalem, constructed a full-fledged primary school for Don Bosco and had a dental college at Colvale in memory of his late father, Diogo.
Those who knew Vaz well wondered why he never took a plunge into politics. Known to have his ear to the ground and a keen student of politics, he was among the few who predicted that Congress would emerge as the single largest party at the state assembly elections in 2017.
Pulling out his trademark notebook and pen, Vaz drew up a list of constituencies where Congress had a chance. The list had two categories: Definite and probable. His estimation was 18 seats. Congress won 17.
Known to have staked his claim for a ticket in the past and spurned, he turned down the opportunity when he was subsequently offered a chance. That was so typical of Vaz.
He lost elections to the Goa Football Association (GFA) president against Shrinivas Dempo—a difference of six votes—in 2010 and, despite repeated requests from clubs to take over the association, unopposed, in 2014 and 2018, he didn’t change his mind.
“I have to do things that I want, not what others want of me,” was his explanation.
He lived his life on those terms.