Indigenous people’s contributions to football in Guyana
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Retired FIFA referee Dianne Ferreira-James
Retired FIFA referee Dianne Ferreira-James

By Ras Wadada

EVER since the establishment and introduction in 2006, of the month of September for the Indigenous people of Guyana to celebrate their heritage, the most followed among the many planned and executed activities is arguably the crammed weekend of sports which is normally held on the final weekend.

Elroy Parks (left) and Gordon Ramascindo

In fact, it is believed that the unending football rivalry between Region One and Region Nine could very well have been the catalyst for this now looked-forward-to Heritage Month by Guyanese of all ethnicities.

The records will show that these two regions have provided the most National players of the ‘Beautiful Game’, with Region One Hosororo supplying the most and St Ignatius, four brothers among others.

The icing on the cake, however, belongs to the Town of Bartica, in Region Seven, whose daughter Dianne Ferreira-James stands head and shoulders above all, not only within Indigenous people, but nationally and regionally.

The retired FIFA referee has officiated at every tournament within the Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) and she is the only referee from the Caribbean to carry the whistle for a World Cup football final – 2002 U-20 Women, USA versus Canada in Edmonton.

Two years later, in Greece at the Athens Olympics final between USA and Brazil, Ferreira-James had to abandon her official status (fourth referee) to blow the whistle in the final half, as Swedish referee Jenny Pamquivst took ill and could not continue.

She had the honour of pointing to the centre after USA scored the winning goal for a 2-1 victory. Her other World Cup final where she carried the whistle was in Russia, 2006 where North Korea prevailed over China in the Women’s U-20. She would also add 2 Gold Cup finals to her list of career achievements.

The multi-talented athlete has also distinguished herself as a player for Guyana, captaining at Cricket, Football and Volleyball while also representing the Guyana Police Force, which she served for 14 years, at the Caribbean Police Games in the 800m and 1500m.

Speaking to Chronicle Sport via WhatsApp, from her adopted home in The Bahamas, the holder of a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration, revealed that former FIFA referee Gerald Laurie is the person who transformed her from an athlete into a referee: “He personally trained me when I began in 1997, while some credit must also go to the late Everad Babb, another Guyanese FIFA referee.”

The current Physical Education teacher for Grades 7 to 12 at St Anne’s High School in The Bahamas also explained that her early retirement at age 42 was due to recurring injuries, “I had to listen to my body which was telling me it was time to quit as I was getting injured too frequently.”

National football captain with Indigenous ancestry is the 1979 youth team’s goalkeeper Anthony Beresford

The soon-to-be 50 years old, mother of a son who also represented Guyana at youth football, is still very much involved with the sport as one of CONCACAF’s top Referee Instructor and Assessor.

Currently there are two aspiring female FIFA referees in Nicola Joseph from Paramakatoi and Odessa Caleb from Port Kaituma in Region One.

The man considered to be the forerunner of national footballers of pure Amerindian descent is Gordon Ramascindo, who hails from Region One’s Mabaruma. According to one of his then schoolmates at the famed Queen’s College, the legendary Gordon ‘Ultimate’ Brathwaite, ‘He was the best defender I recall. My ability to defend was learnt from admiring Gordon Ramascindo whom I never saw got beaten by anyone in a ‘one-on-one’ situation. He was in a higher class at QC, but he was the most solid defender I came across in my early days.”

Ramascindo made his debut for Guyana at centre-half in the mid-60s under Dutch coach August Wootar.

“I remember,” he says with a hearty smile, `fly-butting’ the ball out of danger while playing defence in Nickerie. This brought lots of applause from the fans who were watching. I still vividly remember that’.

The 69-year-old Ramascindo added that the late Clyde ‘Woolly’ Forde and schoolmate Eric Phillips were also part of the team back then, but due to his mother’s declining health, he was forced to return to Mabaruma after completing his ‘O’ level exams; so his plans to join a club in the city and continue his football career were curtailed.

Ramascindo in a telephone linkup with Chronicle Sport, yesterday, indicated that David Couchman from Linden was the first Indigenous person he can remember who played for Guyana at the senior level, and after him for juniors was Michael Pierre.

Another player with Mabaruma roots, to distinguish himself at the Junior National level is Elroy Parks who became the second person of Indigenous ancestry to lead the country when he led the U-20 team in 1998 World Cup qualifiers at home and in Antigua and Barbuda. His deputy, the late Neil Hernandez was also of Indigenous roots but from Bartica.

The first National football captain with Indigenous ancestry is the 1979 youth team’s goalkeeper Anthony Beresford, whose grandmother on his Dad’s side is from the Wai Wai tribe, Morawhanna in Region One.

Also on that 1979 youth team was Ivan Persaud whose roots are in Whyaka of Region 2. Persuad who has been head of the National Swimming Association since 2014 also had a stint of pro football in Suriname in the 70s.

The little village of Hosororo, however, distinguishes itself from all others as they have produced the most national players: Goalkeeper Ronald Hernandez, Errol Solomon, Sherwin Solomon, Elton Browne, Romario Welcome, Jonathon Peters and Christopher Valenzuela.

Another village of great significance is St Ignatius of Region 9 which delivered four brothers to National selections, perhaps unprecedented: Peter and Franklin (seniors), Daxton (U-23) and Anthony (U-19) Parks. Also coming out of Region 9 was midfielder Emrik Williams while Orville Daniels played National U-17.

From Region 10 there were also brothers Denis (senior) and Kenneth Solomon (Junior), Rupert and Bing Charter as well as Bartica-rooted goalkeeper Vibert DeFreitas of the 70s and Clifford and Kenneth Brewster of the late 90s.

The Region 7 capital also produced Junior and Senior National Christopher George and now-retired FIFA referee Roland Persaud. Moruca of Region 1 also gifted to the National women youth team, Analisa Vincent and Matthews Ridge has provided the current Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Football Federation, Debra Francis.

The above list is subject to additions which are most welcome @ raabtawa_2005@yahoo.com

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