Youth football coach Imran Roberto Gopaul more affectionately known as ‘Gopz’ is a strong believer in using sport as an avenue toward success for the youth of T&T.
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Birdie accepts award in song
Any doubts as to whether the Mighty Sparrow’s signature bravado was still intact were quickly erased on Wednesday evening when he was awarded the country’s highest honour — the Order of T&T. Pretending to be the MC, he introduced himself as “his Excellency the Honourable Dr Slinger Francisco, the serenader supreme, who made the ladies daydream and the young girls scream.” Needless to say, he had the audience at the National Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain entertained before his performance even got underway. Using a walking stick to get to the wooden stool at the centre of the stage, the Birdie began his performance with a rendition of Our Father/The Lord’s Prayer sung in a deep, rich tone similar to that of his metallic burgundy suit. This earned him his second standing ovation of the evening. The first came when he emerged on stage to greet President Anthony Carmona, who hugged him and presented him with the medal.
Also onstage to greet and congratulate him were the President’s wife Reema Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her husband Dr Gregory Bissessar and Chief Justice Ivor Archie and his wife Denise Archie. Accompanied by Len Cummings and the Wailers, Sparrow spent time interacting with the band in between songs and engaging the audience. Among the songs he performed were Memories, Congo Man, Our Model Nation, Only A Fool and Frank Sinatra’s My Way. For his final song, Marajhin, he was accompanied by a group of dancers from the Vikash School of Dance and could not resist lifting his cane into the air and dancing with them. Other entertainment included a medley of Sparrow classics by the Bishop Anstey High School Choir and a rendition of the Queen’s Canary by David Bereaux that left the audience in stitches. Among the arts and culture giants present at the event were Winston “Shadow” Bailey, Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool , Roy Cape, Lutalo Masimba (Brother Resistance), Shurwayne Winchester, Karene Asche, Duane O’Connor and Peter Minshall.
Last February, when she announced that Sparrow would be receiving the Order of T&T, Persad-Bissessar also presented Minshall with the deed for the government house in which he lives in Federation Park, Port-of-Spain. She announced then that the State would also cover Sparrow’s medical expenses incurred in New York last year while he recovered from a diabetic coma. He returned to T&T earlier this year and made a series of appearances and performances throughout the Carnival season. Speaking to the media after Wednesday’s awards ceremony, the eight-time Calypso Monarch and eight-time Carnival Road March champion said he was pleased with his recovery. “If you had seen me many months ago... but look at me. I’m standing now even without the cane. They graduated from a wheelchair to a walker and now to this cane. And now I can throw the cane aside but the doctor told me not to show off,” he said. He said he felt blessed to receive the country’s highest award, adding: “Nothing comes before its time.” He believes calypso icons like Lord Kitchener and Lord Melody should be given similar awards posthumously. Asked about his plans for the future, the Birdie said he didn’t want to make any promises but already had one or two ideas for next year’s Carnival season.