As football legend Winston Chung Fah prepares for a great honour, many are looking back at his impact on Cayman’s national sport.
Among them is Academy Sports Club coach Virgil Seymour, who states Chung Fah’s work was an example for all.
“He is someone who shared with everyone as best as he could,” Seymour said. “It (this award) is beautiful, awesome. The legacy he leaves behind here is something that we should have built on years ago. It’s not for us to duplicate his steps, but follow them.
“He helped so many kids off to university and school. Now they can be able to give back to the community at different levels. He never asked them for a penny. That’s a tough thing but he always looked out for people and tried to pass on his football knowledge.”
Chung Fah, 72, is being honoured by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association with the FIFA Order of Merit. He will receive football’s highest global honour at the 62nd FIFA Congress 24-25 May in Budapest, Hungary.
In addition to coaching in the US, he would spend about 18 years in Cayman and serve as football’s technical director. Affectionately known as Coach Chungie, he started the Academy club over 12 years ago with cofounder Avolyn Tatum and pushed for youth football development, football scholarships and education programmes. His club has produced many notable football talents, the latest being Sebastian Martinez, 13, who plays for Swindon Town Football Club in England.
The Jamaican, who is originally from Clarendon, states the honour is a surprise.
“I am surprised and overwhelmed by this great honour of recognition,” Chung Fah said. “My work has been extremely rewarding and I share the FIFA Order of Merit with all the young footballers that have worked so hard to improve their skills and continue their education. I hope this achievement is a beacon for them to aspire to their dreams.
“I would very much like to thank my wife Barbara and my children for being my inspiration and supporting my efforts over the years. As well, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Cayman Islands Football Association President Jeffrey Webb for nominating me for this prestigious award.”
Chung Fah received notification of the award in a formal letter from FIFA president Joseph Blatter and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. He is expected to attend the Hungary congress in spite of his ailing health. Chung Fah has been rapidly declining the last three years with hearing loss, gout, ulcers, arthritis, kidney infections, diabetes, heart and knee problems among his ailments.
Webb, the impending president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, submitted Chung Fah’s name to FIFA for consideration and states he is an inspiration to the region.
“Winston Chung Fah’s commitment and dedication to the development and education of young football players reaches far beyond the Caribbean.” Webb said. “He has inspired young footballers to reach higher and supported them to go farther than any other individual I have known, on or off the field.”
Chung Fah made his initial impact on football in Jamaica, coaching at the grassroots and national levels with a stint as technical director of the Jamaica Football Federation.
For football officials, like Cayman football association development officer Marcos Tinoco, his achievements in Jamaica are an important part of his legacy.
“Coach Winston is one of the most prominent Caribbean coaches and he coached many national teams in Jamaica,” Tinoco said. “FIFA recognized him as one of the most important coaches in the Caribbean and CONCACAF.”
News of the honour comes as Cayman football winds down its season. Only two games remain in the Premier League with Gabriel Godet and Elite Sports Club primed to repeat while the FA Cup is at its semi-final stage.
For Seymour, Chung Fah’s award has added personal meaning.
“It’s a great honour to be affiliated with him period. He opened so many doors for me, he would always be there to help me. He would share his knowledge of the game and give an honest opinion of everything. Many people didn’t know all of his qualifications but he kind of liked it that way as he preferred to be low-key.”