A National Award His Only Reward

Ian Prescott
Date Published: 

"I did my part; I got my reward."

Francis Rivas, who was awarded the Medal of Merit (silver) for outstanding and meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago in the sphere of sport on Independence Day, has been involved in sports administration for 33 years.

Humble and unassuming, he sees the 38th anniversary Independence Day award as great reward.

Recognition came through his involvement with youth.

Rivas has run a schoolgirls cricket league since 1978 and having recognised the contribution it made to their students, teachers of St Joseph Convent nominated him. His nomination was supported by the parent of a student who played in the Francis Rivas Girls' Cricket League. Rivas' involvement with sport began in 1967 when he established an Under-15 boys' football competition at Queen's Park Savannah. The following year, he established the Francis Rivas Football League - one of the first Minor Leagues in the country and the one for which he is renowned.

He was also founder of the first women's windball cricket league in Trinidad and Tobago in 1978. Taking a cue from him, several other competitions sprung up throughout the country. Ironically, they got all the financial backing, enabling them to survive.

"Most of the times it was just me and a few friends. A few companies would contribute trophies but generally we got little help," he laments.

For this reason he has had to narrow his scope over the past few years to schoolgirls' cricket and a one-day Over-35 football competition. He had got involved in administration, after playing a little football himself, because of his concern for the youth.

"I wanted to help out youngsters so that they would have something to do. My involvement, though, was mostly for the love of the sport. I get nothing for myself."

But at 63, Rivas is no longer sure he can continue to serve. No one might after having put out so much with so little and for so little in return.

Much of his working life was spent as a messenger at Balisier House, but with the coming of the NAR Government in 1986 he found himself retrenched and on the breadline.

Through the help of a friend, he secured a similar position at the Caribbean Building and Loans Association, but having served the youth of this country well, in his private time, Rivas' personal situation has been less than ideal. Most of his family are abroad, he is basically homeless and has been forced to stay at the Salvation Army Men's Hostel until better can be done.

He remains contented and especially pleased with the scroll he received. Still, he confesses to having thought of giving it up several times but has always been swayed by sportsmen who look forward to his competitions.

Rivas has also tried to pass on what he started to others but has always found that those who were interested were unprepared to work so hard for such little reward.

Eventually it fell back to him to resume the work.

"I don't think I will go on much more, though," he says. "Maybe a year again with the girls' cricket, but then that is it."