“The joy that I garnered during my period of officiating was that I have played a significant role in establishing the ethics and norms of officiating in the Caribbean. More so, I was happy to have placed Guyana at the forefront in refereeing in those days.”
By Edison Jefford
You don’t often run into pioneers; in fact, history-makers are as rare as a West Indies Test Match victory these days. However, having the distinction of leaving an indelible mark on the local landscape in basketball officiating is the life’s work of Cecil Chin.
It is easy to sometimes forget the men behind the scenes; the men, who, through their dedication to a specific purpose, work feverishly to ensure that systems are upheld, rules are kept and the standing orders in various phenomena of sport are maintained.
Sometimes, the men in black and white, on a basketball court, go unnoticed when ultimately they are the ones who are responsible for the fair outcome of the game. The role and responsibility of an on-court official supersede policing the game, but the point is, referees are as important to the game as the competing teams and sometimes their many superstars.
Guyana has had the distinction of having the first Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) (English: International Basketball Federation) referee in the English-speaking Caribbean when in 1978, Chin succeeded with the prestigious accreditation along with John Yates.
Today, we feature 62-year-old Cecil Chin, a man regarded as the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC)’s most experienced referee and Guyana’s finest to-date, in our Special Person column. He sat down with Kaieteur News last week to highlight what has been a fascinating career.
“I had personally developed a love for officiating. My desire for basketball and officiating took a different plane after I was exposed to higher levels of competition; having travelled the length of the Caribbean and beyond, I felt compelled to make a lasting impression toward the development of the sport in Guyana and in the region,” Chin indicated.
Cecil Chin was born on March 1, 1949, and raised on South Road, Central Georgetown. He has spent a lifetime in basketball. His orientation came in 1964 when he started playing the game. In 1969 he made the Junior national team and was appointed captain.
Chin played on the first Guyana team to compete at a Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games when they toured Venezuela in 1971. The team is still the only Guyanese team to have an overwhelming victory (71-52 against Trinidad and Tobago) at that level.
As a student, Cecil attended the then Sacred Heart Secondary School. Following his tenure there, he went on to the Government Technical Institute, where he was an outstanding athlete. He had understood the importance of integrating academia and sport.
His roots are deep in the sport of basketball. On a path to what looked like a promising career as a point guard, he was regarded as one of the best ball-handlers. However, his dreams of being a professional basketball player were dashed when he was omitted from the 1973 national team for the CAC Games. It did not stop him from exploring his secondary passion.
“I had to make a decision. I loved playing the game and I never stopped playing, but I had to take a decision as to which one of my desires in the sport I would develop; whether I will continue to try to play at the highest level or whether I would become an official,” he said.
Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira, Francis Knights and Yates are among the individuals Chin credits with channelling him in the direction of basketball officiating. Professionally, Chin had been a soldier in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). He was enlisted as a soldier in 1969 and when he untied his playing sneakers, he was trained as a Physical Education Instructor in Trinidad and Tobago following his November 26, 1978 FIBA Carnet (licence) accreditation.
However, before his accreditation, Chin had already begun to carve a niche on the officiating front in the Caribbean. His first exposure as a referee in the region came in 1975 when the CBC suggested that the best referee from each participating country must accompany teams.
Chin was chosen as Guyana’s referee at the CAC Games. He officiated in the tournament hosted in Santo Domingo. Central America’s best teams from countries such as Cuba, Colombia, Santo Domingo, Suriname, Mexico and Puerto Rico participated. It gave Chin his first real taste of what it would require to become an international referee.
“In the initial stages, officials were accredited based on qualification and to qualify for the FIBA Carnet (licence), as it was called in those days, you had to attend a certain amount of clinics and based on those performances, you were recommended for accreditation,” he said.
In 1978, Chin officiated in a three-way series in Barbados, where the hosts opposed Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Chin was re-certified as a FIBA referee in 1984 when he was among a group of 18 referees globally chosen to officiate at the World Military Championships (CISM) in Suriname. He was re-recertified again in 1986 in the US Virgin Islands.
“As part of the criterion to satisfy FIBA that, as a referee, you are still active, you had to officiate in a number of games, local and international; it’s the only way that you would have an extension on your licence to referee internationally, especially,” Chin informed.
“There was lots of encouragement in those days. Guyana was travelling to many countries in the Caribbean and I had the opportunity of going on some of those tours. My reputation as one of the competent referees in the region grew because of those tours,” he continued.
Because of his extensive wealth of experience garnered from the time he became an international referee, Chin was heavily sought after in the Caribbean. He ran a clinic for officials in the Virgin Islands in 1986 and was a clinician for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) the following year, in Grenada and in St. Lucia, respectively.
His exposure at the OECS was more or less a reunion with the man who was responsible for him becoming the referee he is known as today. Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira was the OECS Coordinator of Sports, when in 1987, Chin was invited to work with the OECS.
The other major highpoint in his career came only a year later when he was appointed Technical Commissioner for the seventh CBC Championships, known as the CARICOM Championships, in 1988, when Guyana hosted the region’s most prestigious basketball competition.
“The joy that I garnered during my period of officiating was that I have played a significant role in establishing the ethics and norms of officiating in the Caribbean. More so, I was happy to have placed Guyana at the forefront in refereeing in those days,” Chin said, adding that he was able to considerably improve the image of the region’s basketball fraternity.
But sometimes success is not really success without successors. He seemed to have that in mind when in 1991 he led three Guyanese to Jamaica for FIBA referees’ accreditation. Jamaica hosted the CBC CARICOM Championships that year, and again, Chin was officiating. In fact, he has the enviable record of officiating in eight senior men’s and women’s Caribbean Championships in what he described as a fulfilling career as a basketball official.
None of the three officials he took to Jamaica were successful in attaining the FIBA licence. It was a testament to changing times in the sport. Achieving such accreditation had become significantly more difficult as an overwhelming number of countries had begun to tap into FIBA resources.
Still a member of GDF in 1991, Chin was seconded to President’s College as Physical Education teacher. Three years later, Guyana, under the ex-Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation (GABF) President, the late Colonel Godwin McPherson, hosted the CBC Championships. For what he said were personal reasons, Chin had his doubts about refereeing in that tournament.
“CARICOM’s leading and most experienced FIBA recognised referee, Cecil Chin, of Guyana, is considering quitting officiating after being in control of the game on-court action internationally since 1978,” Joe Chapman reported in the 1994 GABF souvenir magazine. However, it remained just a thought as Chin placed the game above his personal ambitions.
He refereed in 1994 and showed that he still had what it required at the highest level when in the following year he had the distinction of officiating in the inaugural CBC Junior Championships in the Cayman Islands. CARICOM wanted the region’s best at the initial event, and Chin was tipped to report for duties. Two years later, in 1997, he hung up his whistle.
He migrated to St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1998 where he was instrumental in implementing the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC)’s Physical Education programme in schools. However, he said there was always a desire for the development of his country.
“I travelled between St Vincent and Anguilla, because my wife was based in Anguilla. I kept very close relationships with friends in Guyana, who kept me informed about the status of the sport at home. I knew my time would come to finish what I started,” Chin reflected.
The basketball referee extraordinaire re-migrated this year to work with GABF President, David Patterson, to set up the Guyana Basketball Officials’ Council (GBOC), which brings a systematic approach to refereeing and officiating games in Guyana. The complaints about poor refereeing in games had escalated without FIBA personnel over the last decade or more.
“The basketball fraternity called upon me to establish an official arm of the GABF that would be responsible for officials. Having had discussions with the GABF, and FIBA officials Lugard Mohan and Aubrey Younge, we formed the GBOC,” Chin explained in our interview.
Mohan, who is a former CBC All-Star Guard, and Younge, a former player, attained FIBA referees’ accreditation in 2009 after being successful at the certification exercise in the United States. They are the only two FIBA-certified referees at the moment. Linden’s Sherwin Henry had attained his FIBA licence before, but the status of his qualification is unknown.
“I am President of GBOC, but this Council is not a Chin thing. It’s an officials’ council with two functions; one, expose all our local referees and officials to clinics, and two, to benefit Guyana’s and the Caribbean’s basketball with quality officiating,” Chin asserted, before adding that they intend to raise the standard of basketball officiating both locally and regionally.
One can honestly say that Chin has spent a lifetime as a basketball official. From his youth in the late 60’s and early 70’s to adulthood, Chin is still playing an active role in the development of an important facet of the sport. His enduring motto is cemented in discipline.
“Discipline is the hallmark of success,” he says, and “it is your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude,” he added; his role and contributions to officiating in the Caribbean and in Guyana has been etched in the annals of history as a true pioneer.
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