Joseph “Reds” Perreira is often short changed by being referred to merely as a cricket commentator. His autobiography LIVING MY DREAMS, just published, challenges that appellation.
There are no records of any outstanding feats on the part of this Guyanese on a field of sports or even of him making any national team of his country, but there possibly is no one in the West Indies now or in the recent past who has contributed to so many disciplines of sport as Perreira has, and most of them at the very same time.
Perreira is an icon in the history of sports in these parts. He is a member of a triumvirate of really outstanding international cricket commentators produced by the West Indies, (alongside Tony Cozier and Roy Lawrence of Jamaica). For nearly four decades, Perreira was a sports broadcaster and journalist, a sports administrator and organizer as well. It is doubtful if there will be another like him, for his sheer dedication to sports development ….all sports. He has filled many roles, including two big ones right here in St. Lucia as OECS Sports Coordinator and Sports Tourism Officer with the St Lucia Tourist Board. His work has taken him throughout the Caribbean, including living and working in Barbados as well.
LIVING MY DREAMS written by Katherine Atkinson will have its St Lucia launch next Wednesday at the Bay Gardens. It promises to be quite an occasion.
Perreira confesses to a passion for cricket which he began to follow as early as the late 1940s in the days of inter territorial cricket between the four big countries of the West Indies: Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. By the time the West Indies began to emerge as a force in international cricket in the 1950s, Perreira had been completely bowled over by the game. By then he had already had glimpses of some of the “greats” of the day in the flesh: Headley, Weekes, Worrell, Walcott, the Australians who routed the West Indies at home in 1955, the Indians Mankad and Gupte, among others.
Apart from cricket, Perreira was also tall on soccer, boxing, track and field and a little basketball, but it is as a cricket commentator that he is best known and from the role of back up to the head of the Sports Department of newly opened Guyana Broadcasting Service (GBS) in 1968, Perreira went on to carve a reputation that made his name and voice known all over the world.
In 1984 Perreira assumed the job as the first head of a newly-created Sports Desk (which he described as “a team of one”) at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States secretariat in Castries, with jurisdiction over nine territories in the sub region. The appointment signaled a burst of sports activities in the OECS that continues to this day, although no one has been able to quite fill Perreira’s shoes since his departure from the post.
But it was “Reds” Perreira who not only organized and administered sports in these islands, but had open to him the doors of sponsorship that had seemingly never existed before. And then he marketed the various events in all the different islands as well, creating linkages with business houses, government officials and sports journalists that ensured the necessary exposure and success for each event. The OECS should forever be grateful for the “magic touch” that Perreira brought to these islands, producing a long-running spectacle out of the raw talent that existed but with poor club structures and inadequate support services.
The title LIVING MY DREAMS is well-chosen since the book tells the rise of a young boy from the virtual backwoods of Guyana to the international limelight, fighting off a string the odds along the way including a long standing stammering problem that could easily have sidelined his ambitions to become a broadcaster and commentator permanently, had he simply acknowledged the problem and given up. The fact of the matter is that Perreira never allowed this speech impediment to hamstring his forward march to stardom and in fact, unless one knew of it, one would never have suspected that he had it. Such was nature of Perreira’s drive for excellence and to overcoming adversity.
Neither did he allow a 1995 stroke suffered while with the West Indies tour of Australia to finally curb his zest for cricket in particular and sports in general. The Perreira voice was still be heard on-air as recently this year.
LIVING MY DREAMS is a story that is told with unusual candour. Perreira shows remorse whatever, in his handling of some incidents which should have left him quite peeved and deflated, like the resentment he encountered in some circles over his appointment as head of the OECS Sports Desk , dealing with hostile and uncooperative officials—in sports and government--or the circumstances which led to his parting company with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) when it sought to dilute the role that he loved best, that of a ball-by-ball cricket commentator.
The book describes his boyhood in his native Guyana where young men grew up to be fearless playing almost in company with poisonous snakes, alligators and other dangerous animals. Then it was on to Georgetown where he started to organize cricket teams before he began attending first class matches. Two trips to England in the decade of the sixties exposed Perreira to a different way of life and gave the young man the opportunity for adventure, including touring the rest of Europe. It was after his return home in 1967 after his second trip to England, that Perreira’s career took off.
The book gives examples of Perreira’s journalistic excellence like his breaking of the sensational story of a “rebel” West Indies cricket team leaving to tour apartheid South Africa in 1983, which started with a tip off from Perreira’s own “Deep Throat” --remember Watergate?-- “a gentleman whose information I trusted”. Under a barrage of fire from those who questioned the authenticity of his information, Perreira nevertheless prevailed and in the process broke a major story that clearly brought out the best in him as a journalist.
Aside from his stroke, the book delves into a lot of Perreira’s personal life, his relationships, setbacks etc. It is at lot about cricket, the excitement and thrills of matches and tours he covered including the two West Indies World Cup triumphs in 1975 and 1979 and the manner in which he was able to convey what he was experiencing to thousands of fans all over the world. But the bigger story is about a man living his many dreams. (By Guy Ellis).