Football community pays tribute to coach Chung Fah

Winston Chung Fah, a well-known soccer coach who helped raise the level of play in the Cayman Islands and who encouraged young players to pursue sport scholarships at American universities, died Nov. 8 in a Miami-area hospital near his home. He was 78.

Mr. Chung Fah first made a name for himself in Jamaica, founding the Santos Football Club in 1964 in an impoverished area, in part to address the needs of at-risk youth. This combination of coaching and community involvement was something he practiced throughout his career. By making connections with U.S. colleges and boarding schools, he established some pipelines for players to continue their educations.

“I have quite a few boys that went off to college to play, even my two sons,” said Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, Cayman’s under 20/under 23 national football coach and someone who worked with Mr. Chung Fah over the years. “Kids were working their way through college, getting degrees and getting jobs. I think that has been his biggest contribution.”

It’s estimated that 50-60 Cayman players benefited from those efforts over the years.

After his first club team, Mr. Chung Fah went on to coach school teams, most notably the Clarendon College team, which won both the DaCosta Cup and Olivier Shield in 1977 and 1978.

Sometime in the mid to late 1980s, Mr. Chung Fah came to Cayman to serve as the technical director for the national football team. He would remain in Cayman for most of the rest of his career.

Neil Murray is the youth committee chairman with the Cayman Islands Football Association. He remembers being a player when Mr. Chung Fah arrived on the island.

“We had a senior national team,” Mr. Murray said. “We really just got together and played games.”

Mr. Chung Fah took what was an informal organization and demanded a better caliber of play.

“We were well aware of his reputation,” Mr. Murray said. “He brought more of a professional attitude to the team.”

He said the coach was also a bit of a social worker.

“He was a great friend to a lot of us,” he said. “He was a mentor. He would go out of his way to assist when he could.”

Coach Chungie, as he was known, went the extra mile, Mr. Murray said. When players did not show up for early morning practice, Mr. Chung would often visit the players’ homes to find out why. On one occasion, a parent told him their son could not attend practice because he had too many chores to do in the morning.

The next day, Mr. Murray said, “He took the whole team and we went to the house and did the chores so the player could come and train.”

After a stint as the national team coach, Mr. Chung Fah founded the Scholars Sports Club and, later, the Academy Sports Club, both in the 1990s. He still emphasized education to his players, bringing in teachers and tutors to help them with their studies, Mr. Murray said.

Mr. Chung Fah left coaching around 2010, he said. He moved to Miami to be closer to his two daughters.

In 2012, he was recognized by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, with the Order of Merit, the organization’s highest honor, which is bestowed upon those making a profound contribution to the sport.

By then, Mr. Chung Fah was already in poor health, primarily from complications from diabetes, Mr. Murray said.

“He gave of himself more than he took care of himself,” he said. “He was someone who was less concerned about his situation than other people’s situation. He would give you the clothes off his back and never wanted anything in return.”

Mr. Seymour called Mr. Chung Fah a no-nonsense coach and a great motivator.

“The body is going to rest, but his legacy will live on,” he said. “He’ll always be here.”