Chung Fah: a larger than life visionary

Saturday, November 10, 2018

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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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