"He was T&T's first modern coach"

Donald Chambers
Date Published: 
Trinidad Guardian

Joffre Chambers receives his medalJoffre Chambers receives his medal: from President Arthur NR Robinson at the West Indian Tobacco Sports Foundation Hall of Fame ceremony.

In a time of unprecedented achievement by the football fraternity in T&T, we pay tribute to one of the greats who started the ball rolling (pun unavoidable) - Joffre H Q Chambers.

Legend, gentleman, pioneer, supreme motivator, innovator, dazzling player, coach, T&T football Hall of Famer - these are some of the titles borne by Joffre Chambers over the years.

I have known him simply as Granddad.

A kind, soft spoken man, he has always been full of great stories to tell.

'Stories' actually, may be the wrong word to describe them as they have not been fictitious tales but more like reports - reports on different stages of a fulfilling and highly accomplished life - reports whose truths need no fabrications for dramatic effect, the entertainment value is already guaranteed.

As a child, I used to hear these stories on the front porch of my

grandparents' home in Cascade, Trinidad, on any given family visit. He never spoke highly of himself or his accomplishments, as that would betray the nature of the humble gentleman, but he spoke of the adventures he undertook and the great people he encountered along the way.

And today, speak to anyone involved in football in T&T and the wider eastern Caribbean from the 40's to the 80's and his name comes up, accompanied by the most complimentary of adjectives that would make any man blush.

So now it is my turn. Let me tell you the story:

Born on 9th November, 1915, in Belmont where he grew up with his older sisters Edna and Marjorie, Joffre's sporting talents were evident from a very young age. He captained both the cricket and football teams for his high school Queens Royal College, both winning their respective championships in the nation's school competitions. As a cricketer, he set records that still stand in Trinidad and Tobago to this day but it was as a footballer that he attained his legendary status.

As a player, he represented Maple, a club which was home to another footballing-great, Joey Gonsalves. In the late 1930s to '40s he played for Trinidad and Tobago, dumfounding opponents and thrilling crowds in the Grandstand at the Queens Park Savanah with his ball control and tricky moves.

He once scored a hattrick in a 3-0 win over Suriname.

As a young coach, he travelled to different countries, studying the game and its different styles. Later he developed his own style and taught it to the players of Dynamos Sports Club, leading them to the TAF Second Division Championship in in1957, promotion to the First Division in 1958, BDV Cup in 1961 and the FA Trophy in 1962.

He has made several publications on the art of football, the last of which Manual of Deception for young Soccer Players - has been described by one local football authority as 'a footballer's bible.' No wonder his expertise was sought in Grenada and St. Lucia.

Hugo Gunning, a former member of the Dynamos Sports Club now living in the United Kingdom, had this to say about his former coach:

'Joffre Chambers was T&T's first modern day coach. It's as simple as that.

He revolutionized football in this country, bringing an end to the 'buff and run' style that was once dominant.

He understood the game and had his own style of football, concentrating on dribbling skills, tricky individual moves and intricate team tactics.

He always used to say to us, 'you must leave your opponents bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Great man.

Another former Dynamos player Frank De Freitas revealed that a proposal was being formulated to honour Joffre by forming a soccer skills academy in his name.

'We cannot allow his legacy to be lost. This man is a humble genius. His imagination as a coach was unparalleled. He was ahead of his time.

What he taught me was passed on to my two sons Sheldon and Stokely, and Stokely passed the training on to his seven year old son Khaleed who recently received the Best Player in the Camp Award at Joe Public while playing in the 8-10 age group. We don't see the type of moves that Joffre taught on display enough in local football today. Hopefully the proposed academy can rectify that.'

Now in his early nineties, Joffre's coaching boots have long since been tucked away. He still lives in Cascade with his lovely wife of over sixty years, Elsa Chambers. They have two chidlren, Michael and Margaret and five grandchildren.

I have not been home to share a glass of his favourite sherry and listen to his stories recently, but hopefully soon Granddad, hopefully soon.