Jun 10, 2019 Sports
By Sean Devers
“Ecstatic, delighted, wonderful, surprising but confident” were the words used by FIFA International Referee Lawrence ‘Sparrow’ Griffith to describe how he felt when he received the news of his Medal of Service Award.
Nominated by the GFF, ‘Sparrow’, on May 24 got to live one of his most memorable moments when he received the award for his outstanding contribution to sports in Guyana.
Born on April 3, ‘Sparrow’ grew up in Hadfield Street Lodge and says that his most memorable moment in his life is getting married to his wife and biggest supporter Hazel, on May 17, 1966.
Winning this award ranks a close second, while his appointment by the GOA to attend a Commonwealth Sports Development Conference in Scotland in 2010 and getting employed at the Guyana Rice Board (GRB) which changed his life, are the other most memorable moments for him.
‘Sparrow’ whose first love was music (Piano) attended the ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ Primary School which was located on Regent Street and later the East Ruimveldt Secondary on the ‘Back Road’ but informed that he never got the chance to write exams because his father, a Policeman, did not want to ‘waste’ his money and arranged for young Griffith to join the Guyana National Service (GNS).
Growing up opposite the old Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), ‘Sparrow’ developed an interest in Football by playing the game on the Durban Park Horse Racing Track.
He soon joined the Lodge Rovers FC which was formed by the late Harold ‘Lightweight’ Kissoon the sibling of Kaieteur News’ Columnist Freddy Kissoon.
A Goal Keeper, Griffith was invited to National U-20 trials before joining Santos FC where his Administrative Career commenced at age 19.
Between 1970 and 1986 he played for Lodge Rovers, St Barnabus, GRB, Santos and GFC as a Goalie.
“Morris Enmore who was Santos Coach and Captain, recommended me as Club Secretary, while in 1982, former Senior National, Orville Bobb, a FIFA Referee at that time, advised me to become a Referee,” disclosed the 61-year-old Griffith who has been involved in sports for close five decades.
After the 1990 World Cup, FIFA introduced specialists Assistant Referees which were then known as Linesmen and with just a handful of them in Guyana, Griffith became Guyana’s first International Assistant Referee in 1993 before he retired in 2003 when he turned 45. He still does the job occasionally locally.
Griffith’s only disappointment in an illustrious career both on and off the field was that he never got an opportunity to officiate in a World Cup.
For a 10-year period Griffith officiated in several prestigious tournaments including the Gold Cup, Shell Caribbean Cup, CONCACAF U-20, the International Club Championships and the CAC Games.
But it was bit of luck and the unwavering support of his wife Hazel that propelled him into that position.
“FIFA had picked Orin Argyle for the CONCACAF U-20 tournament in Honduras in 1994 but he had been having knee problems and we were both called to do a fitness test which he failed.
I was selected to go but that was not the end of my problems. In those days the GFF had to pay your airfare but they did not have the funds so my wife borrowed the money for my trip as I became the first Guyanese to perform those duties at International level,” related Griffith, who has a wealth of Football knowledge.
Griffith and his wife have been living together for 33 years and have been married for 23 years.
More known for his contribution to Football fraternity he was also the President of the Dodgers Netball Club from 1999-2001 and Secretary of the Guyana Netball Association (GNA) in 2007 and an executive Committee member on the Athletic Association of Guyana.
Griffith, who would later manage the National Senior Football team on five occasions, the U-16s four times and National Futsal team thrice, explained what caused him to remain in Sports.
“My Father was very strict and arranged for me to join the GNS in 1976. I was doing construction at the East La Penitence Police Station as I waited on the GNS call and I was asked to play a game for GRB at GSC ground which we lost 2-nill,” added Griffith, who has three daughters from two marriages.
He got employed by GRB and did not go to the GNS. “If I had entered the GNS I might have become a Lieutenant but would never had the life I have in sports,” said Griffith, a former GFF and GFA secretary.
He became the Supervisor of the Electrical department with little technical knowledge of the job before being appointed GRB Sports Organiser in 1984 and produced several National Athletes who participated in the Guystac Games.
Since then his highly successful career has taken off spectacularly as he performed duties both on and off the field including his role as Referee Instructor and assessor; helping to produce many outstanding Referees including the multitalented FIFA Referee Dianne Ferreira James.
“My daughter (former National Netballer Althea Griffith) was attending the Sacred Heart and NSC’s Lavern Frazer-Thomas conducted a summer clinic for U-12s.
In 1998 Lavern started the Dodgers Netball Club with the parents forming the executives and that is how I got involved in the Administration of Netball,” Griffith, who was mainly responsible for Guyana’s participation for the first time in the Caribbean Netball Association’s U-16 Tournament in Barbados, informed.
Griffith also worked as Sports Organiser of Sanata Textiles Limited, was Manager for the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall (CASH) and is presently employed at the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs as the Hinterland Sports Development Officer and has so far visited approximately 12 Hinterland Communities in Region 8.
Between July 1994 and January 2001 Griffith travelled to Trinidad five times and also visited Suriname, Honduras, Jamaica, Curacao, Venezuela, Antigua, Mexico, Costa Rico, Los Angles and Miami for Football tournaments.
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