South football icon solid as a ‘Rock’

Clevon Raphael
Date Published: 
Trinidad Guardian

Augustus 'Rock' RibeiroAugustus 'Rock' Ribeiro: making a point during the interview.

Although it happened more than 55 years ago, the memory of how his side lost the big match, in a most shocking piece of rank dishonesty, is still fresh for 83-year-old Augustus Ribeiro, alias Rock. Ribeiro, who looks at least 20 years younger than his calendar age, is the epitome of physical fitness. And if he was not visually impaired, Ribero would probably still be kicking ball in his adopted hometown of La Brea today. He was the first footballer from the deep south to be selected to play for the senior national team, an accomplishment he says he would always cherish.

It all started for this Barbados-born sports fanatic when in 1947 at age 16, he began playing second class football with Spitfire Club in San Fernando. At that time there were six such clubs—UBOT, Forest Reserve, Palo Seco, Apex, Pointe-a-Pierre and Spitfire.

Rock, who came to Trinidad with his parents when he was three months old, played mostly in the right wing position and is remembered by his contemporaries for his awesome kick. Testifying to Rock’s prowess on the field was former top national footballer Sedley Joseph who said: “I knew very little of him because he was much older than I was, but from what I saw of him on the field he served football exceptionally well.

“Rock never gave up. He was extremely physically fit and his heart was always in the game.” Those he played with or against included Cax Baptiste and Eric Pitt, top goalkeepers in the SAFL (Southern Amateur Football League). There was also Glen Charlo, Noel Daniel and Doyle Griffith in the half-line and forward positions. Other colleagues included Ivan de Gourville who he described as “the best left winger I ever came across,” Son Baptiste, Alvin Rodriguez and Willam Baird. Rock first played for the national team in 1948 but was prevented from playing for his country abroad because of a leg injury. Clevon Raphael interviewed the man who was feared by many footballers.

Why the nickname Rock?
“I was very fast and real tough and wasn’t afraid of any footballer...that’s why they called me Rock. They really couldn’t catch me,” he said, with a voice as sharp as his memory.

What was your most memorable match?
“The game they always talked about was when we (South) came to town to play against North. After we had them 3-nil, North came back to beat us 5-3 in that classic match-up—a match that we were not supposed to have lost.”

Why did south lose that match?
“Our first goal keeper Cax Baptiste, was unwell the day of the match and another chap—I won’t call his name because he is dead— threw the match and you want to know why he did that despicable thing? “He went and bet $40 in 1953 that North will beat us.”

“Yes. And I heard it about a week after the match and $40 was good money at the time. “I found out because our left wing at the time told another player about the incident and he told me.
“In retrospect, I see how he simply allowed two goals to get into our net. “And you know he was a fella who liked to drink a lot. I used to observe the man so I wasn’t surprised when I heard that.”

Did he ever confront him with that information?
“No No No! Because he was an ignorant fella. I remember playing another match with Forest Reserve and he was the goalkeeper.”
“He was coming at me to break me up but I got away. “I was weighing only 130 pounds and he was closer to 200 pounds. I wasn’t so stupid to tangle with him at that time [Laughs.] “So I hit him a dummy and he went that way [pointing left] and I ran in the opposite direction. I am telling you I was really fast, man...
“I will never forget that match—we lost because of a thorough scamp!” Rock, who began losing his sight in 1979, keeps up with the game mainly through the electronic media and could tell you about the latest controversy in the discipline.

Advice to aspiring sports people?
“Stay away from smoking, too much feteing and don’t drink alcoholic beverages.” “In our time we got some lime squash during a match. That is about it.”