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Jim Chalmers

Jim ChalmersMany 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.



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