Winston Chung-Fah: A Life of Commitment to Excellence
Jamaica has produced great athletes who have had a profound impact on the world of sports. In recent years in track and field, Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake are athletes larger than life. In yesteryear in the world of track there was Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Lennox Miller, Donald Quarrie and Merlene Ottey. In the world of cricket Jamaica produced George Headley, Collie Smith, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Chris Gayle.
In the world of soccer, it has been Lindy Delapenha, Sydney Bartlett, Alan Cole, Art Welsh, Henry Largie and Delroy Scott. In the compartment of coaching the country has not produced any indigenous soccer coach that is larger than life with the exception of Winston Chung-Fah.
The Jamaican soccer world made great leaps forward under the guidance of the Brazilian coach, Jorge Penna, in the 1960s. Members of that team in large part were exported to the United States and played in America’s first professional soccer league in the middle of the 1960s.
From his initial foray into local soccer, Winston Chung-Fah envisioned a club outside of the conventional box. A former Y.M.C.A. goal-keeper, Chung founded Doncaster Rovers and then the formidable Santos Football Club. Like Boys Town and Cavaliers, Santos was outside the traditional mainstream of Jamaican football.
When “Chungie” started Santos, there was an abundance of talent, a dearth of funds and non-existent facilities. Santos, despite a nomadic existence, emerged as the top soccer club in the Kingston and St. Andrew Division 1 or Premier League.
Much of the talent was drawn from Rae Town, Dunkirk, Southside, Franklin Town, Bridgeview and Allman Town. To make Santos work and achieve greatness, it required a coach with an infinite amount of energy and bountiful imagination. In the early days, Santos Football Club was comprised of fantastic talent but to make it work, it needed a personality like “Chungie”.
“Chungie” effectively molded a disparate crew into a disciplined team that played outstanding football. “Chungie” was more than an astute student of the game. He was a leader and understood the critical psychological aspects of competitive sport and that is why when a team coached by “Nava” Chung went into the dressing room, when they returned to the pitch, they invariably raised their game to another level.
Chung was not just interested in the lads as footballers. He was interested in their development as men, as human beings. That is why throughout his coaching career whether in Jamaica, the United States or the Cayman Islands, he stressed education. In the 1960s, he started the trek of sending “sufferer” youths domiciled in the inner city to rural havens like Vere Technical initially and Clarendon College.
Vere Technical under the tutelage of Derick Tomkinson and subsequently Chung produced some of the great DaCosta Cup teams of all time. After Tomkinson succumbed to an illness, Chung was invited by Principal Ben Francis to continue the tradition of greatness.
Vere Technical honed the skills of footballers who not only brought visibility to the school but went on to represent their country and to make lasting contributions to Jamaican football at home and abroad. Even though they played for Vere in different years, the era 1965-1969, players of the caliber of Alan Cole, Winston Earle, Orville Edwards, Lloyd Walker, Les Brown, Corcel Blair, Miguel Blair, Las Shaw, E.B. Barrett, “Trini” Douglas, et al, will always be remembered as golden years. They were instrumental in bringing soccer greatness to a parish known for the export of sugarcane. Chung coached the victorious 1969 DaCosta Cup champions that included Corcel Blair, Bob Campbell, Las Shaw, Lloyd Walker, etc.
Chungie replicated his legendary career as a coach when in 1977 he moved to Clarendon College and won the DaCosta Cup/Oliver Shield. Some pundits argue that the 1977 Clarendon College team has to be recognized as one of the great schoolboy teams of all times. That Chung-Fah coached team included Lenny Hyde, “Den Den”Hutchinson, Eric Curry, Michael Davies, O’neil Russell, Desmond Smith, Donovan Halsall, Glen Nembhard, Donovan Wray, Dave Gerrard and Roy Duncan.
After a sojourn abroad, Winston Chung-Fah returned to Jamaica and served as the Technical Director from 1991 -1993. It was a brief stint as the legendary soccer coach and the Jamaica Football Federation were not on the same page. “Chungie’s” vision was to build from the younger age group and set the foundation to the extent that Jamaica could compete at the international level in the not too distant future. The Jamaica Football Federation sought instant success and their decision was very much guided by the revenues generated by the senior team. Those differences which were not necessarily irreconcilable but unfortunately led to a parting of ways. “Chungie” left shortly thereafter to make his mark in the world of Cayman soccer.
Often athletes do not represent the best role models. Great sportsmen can easily become solipsistic and preoccupied with themselves. For his entire existence, Winston Chung-Fah’s life has been characterized by a sense of selflessness. It was never about “Chungie”, it was always about the team, the higher cause, the achievement of excellence. This selflessness is what guided his life sometimes putting the pressing needs of his family on the backburner.
In the twilight of his career, the many people who have been inspired by Chung-Fah, have come together to show their appreciation. It is befitting that the Jamaican government has recognized his contributions to football and to development of inner city youths in Jamaica. It is also gratifying to see educational institutions like Vere Technical and Clarendon College recognizing his worth.
I will close on a personal note. In the 1970s when Winston Chung-Fah was the coach of the Jamaican under 19 World Cup Team that was preparing to travel to Puerto Rico for the qualifying round, I was visiting Jamaica. Chung-Fah was also coaching Clarendon College and we both left the National Stadium to pick up his remuneration from Clarendon College. When we returned to the National Stadium the practice was coming to a close and there was a long line of players telling “Chungie” about their state of penuriousness. The selfless “Nava” Chung heard the tales of woe and distributed the funds that he had just collected from Clarendon College. When he left the stadium, Chung-Fah had a mere twenty dollars left in his pocket.
That act of generosity was not a rarity but repeated anywhere poor people gathered and he was in a position to ease some form of misery. That is how he has lived his life. His achievement as a soccer coach places him among the Hall of Fame of Jamaican footballers and coaches. But what has made him truly special is not just the legendary coaching career, but his generosity of spirit, a sense of humanity, and a devotion to social justice.