of Canterbury's most outstanding soccer players of the 1970s and 1980s
were profoundly influenced by a charismatic Scotsman with a dry sense of
humour and an unhesitating willingness to help anybody in need.
Former Aberdeen professional Jim Chalmers -
who later became known as the father of secondary school soccer in
Christchurch - died last month after losing a battle with cancer.
He was 71.
Mr Chalmers was brought to New Zealand in
1965 by the Christchurch Technical club to be its first professional
player-coach. These were the days when progressive Canterbury
soccer clubs were looking overseas to bring experience and talent into
the game. He saw the move to Christchurch as a challenge, and was
faintly irritated by soccer officials constantly apologising for the
standard of play and the condition of the grounds.
"I have played in far worse conditions
and so have thousands like me. And I have seen far worse players,"
he told them. "Stop making comparisons, and improve what you have got."
The club flourished under his guidance
and in 1968 finished runner-up in the Chatham Cup final. A year later,
it won the newly established southern league.
He is also remembered as an expert
comments man on Sunday afternoon radio and on television during the
early days of the first national league. But it was probably among the
pupils of Christchurch Boys' High School that he made his greatest mark.
Mr Chalmers joined the staff of the school as a physical education
specialist soon after his arrival in New Zealand, and remained there
until his retirement in 1993.
Throughout that period, he was either
master in charge of soccer or, in later years, a respected adviser. He
coached the school first XI for many years, and many outstanding players
passed through his hands. He believed in selling the game as a fun
thing, and his dry sense of humour was never far away. One former
student recalled once asking Jim Chalmers what he was like as a player
when he was young. The reply was swift. "I was never young."
He was the secondary school delegate on
the Canterbury representative to the New Zealand Junior Football
Association. As a player, Mr Chalmers was the consummate
professional. Highly respected by fellow players, he had that special
ability to move everybody with him. Considering his background before
coming to New Zealand, that is not surprising. He played in the Scottish
first and second divisions for Aberdeen, Dunfermline, and Queens Park.
As an amateur, he was a Scottish
international. But he always felt that his real future in the game lay
with coaching. He became player-coach of the Eastern Counties league
club Sudbury Town. He gained his coaching badge for the Scottish FA, and
later earned the distinction of becoming the first Scot to hold the full
Football Association coaching badge.
James Stewart Chalmers, born July 24,
1930, in Aberdeen; died March 23, 2002, in Christchurch. Survived by his
wife Anne, son Stuart, daughter Jenny, and two grandchildren.
Thanks to Stewart Campbell
for sending this into us.