Chung Fah: a larger than life vi­sion­ary

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - EDITORIAL CLOVIS TOON -

A gifted coach, Mr Win­ston Chung Fah, who died Thurs­day at age 78 in the Mi­ami, Florida, was also one of Ja­maica’s great foot­ball vi­sion­ar­ies.

While oth­ers scoffed or found rea­sons it couldn’t be done, Mr Chung Fah — con­sis­tently for many years prior to the ac­tual achieve­ment in 1997 — trum­peted the idea for all who would lis­ten that Ja­maica was per­fectly ca­pa­ble of qual­i­fy­ing for the FIFA World Cup.

All it re­quired, he used to say, was proper plan­ning, de­ter­mi­na­tion and fi­nan­cial sup­port. A colour­ful, larger-than-life, charis­matic per­son­al­ity with seem­ingly lim­it­less en­thu­si­asm, op­ti­mism and abil­ity to per­suade oth­ers, Mr Chung Fah went even fur­ther. Ja­maica, he ar­gued, could ac­tu­ally win the World Cup.

Back in the 1980s, he would ex­pounded — some­times for hours at a time — on the po­ten­tial of Ja­maica’s foot­ball, cit­ing the ex­am­ple of two-time World Cup win­ners Uruguay.

In a 1989 in­ter­view with Foot­ball 90, pub­lished by JP Pub­li­ca­tions, Mr Chung Fah un­der­lined his case: “Why don’t we (Ja­maica) be­lieve we can win the World Cup? Look how small a coun­try Uruguay is, yet they have done it. Didn’t we pro­duce Herb Mck­en­ley, Ge­orge Headley and four world box­ing cham­pi­ons?”

His vi­sion un­doubt­edly helped to mo­ti­vate the late Cap­tain Ho­race Bur­rell, who led the way as pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (JFF) for the Reg­gae Boyz to break the bar­rier and reach the 1998 World Cup in France.

It would have been dis­ap­point­ing for him that Ja­maica’s men’s team have not re­peated this feat since ‘98. How­ever, it’s pleas­ing that be­fore Mr Chung Fah drew his fi­nal breath, the Reg­gae Girlz booked their ticket to next year’s women’s World Cup, also in France.

A goal­keeper in his youth, Mr Chung Fah ded­i­cated his life to foot­ball. He is cred­ited with the found­ing of now-de­funct east Kingston-based Don­caster Rovers and he later co-founded San­tos FC – a dom­i­nant force in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and still alive to­day.

Gen­er­ous to a fault, Mr Chung Fah had a help­ing hand for young foot­ballers and his restau­rant in down­town Kingston be­came a haven for those in need of a meal.

As a school­boy coach, Mr Chung Fah was out­stand­ing in his ex­e­cu­tion of the ‘beau­ti­ful game’. His Claren­don Col­lege side of the mid-to-late 1970s, which peaked in 1977, is rou­tinely con­sid­ered among the best-ever in the more than 100-year his­tory of Ja­maican school­boy foot­ball. Util­is­ing a fluid, short-pass­ing, pos­ses­sion style, that school­boy team cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of Ja­maicans like no other since.

It was there, at the youth level, that Mr Chung Fah’s ca­pac­ity to in­spire came most to the fore.

Note the words of Mr Den­nis “Den Den” Hutchin­son, a star on the 1977 side. “He (Mr Chung Fah) was more than a coach,” said Mr Hutchin­son. “Some­times ‘Chungy’ gave team talks and you got so emo­tional that you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…”

And in a 2017 in­ter­view, Mr Len­worth Hyde, pop­u­larly con­sid­ered the most in­flu­en­tial mem­ber of that 1977 team, re­called that “when Chung Fah fin­ish talk to you, yu (feel) like you can lift up that car…”

In his later years, Mr Chung Fah used his foot­ball knowl­edge and phi­los­o­phy to guide foot­ball over­seas, most no­tably in the Cay­man Is­lands and the United States. Foot­ball will miss him ter­ri­bly.

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