It’s an unusual thing to be able to follow up a piece of reporting that seemingly leads to dead ends whichever way the investigation goes. So, I am more than contented to be sharing the following information here on my blog. Obviously, as a journalist, looking for a follow up story is a necessity to be able to further quantify – not to mention the added financial bonus – the piece and be able to spread the information to a greater and perhaps more engaged audience.
For those who have read my blog and for those who have seen pieces of my work online you will know that I was able to start an investigation into the life and times of an English football coach by the name of Jack Greenwell during his albeit brief tenure in charge of Santa Fe in Bogota. This became something of a quest dating back to 2009 when I was listening to the World Football Phone In on a podcast. The “Legend” Tim Vickery made a remark regarding the best English coach to have ever plied his trade overseas and in the same breath mentioned Jack Greenwell. Now, I do not have the space to once again wax lyrically of Greenwell’s achievements, but I was spurred on by the lack of knowledge regarding Greenwell’s stint in Colombia.
I started investigating the subject and could only find mention here and there, mainly in Spanish language publications of Greenwell in Bogota. Certainly the hardcore fan sites dedicated to Santa Fe make mention. I headed down to the archives for the national newspaper El Tiempo and was able to find more information, reviews of games and indeed Greenwell’s obituary. Now, Tim Vickery had suggested that Greenwell passed away perhaps in the violence that occurred in Bogota in 1948 when the city erupted in riots after the assassination of a presidential candidate in what is referred to as the Bogotazo.
Indeed, had Greenwell been resident in his digs on the Calle 16 with Carrera 8 on this date, he would no doubt have been caught up in the violence and ensuing destruction of the capital. But, this journeyman English coach had already passed away a couple of years previously.
So, once I had found the information in El Tiempo, I could then trace Greenwell through the Bogota Archives to find out where he died and how. In the Notaria 2 I was able to find his death notice and in the Archives there was a note that he was buried in the British Cemetery. A visit to the cemetery yielded no tombstone for Greenwell and I imagine that he was buried in a pauper’s grave either there or in the neighbouring Cementerio Central.
Anyhow, I published the piece in Bogota’s City Paper and then sought out Brent Atema of the notable football website Global Football Today. Fortunately Atema took the piece and it remains to this day up there. I filed the piece and got on with life.
Then, I saw the contact from a descendent of Greenwell’s and through the webserver and Atema we were able to secure an email address to one Doris Hahn, Greenwell’s Peruvian-born Canada-based granddaughter. Sadly her mother, Greenwell’s daughter, Carmen had passed away not too long ago, but I got the opportunity while on holiday in Canada in August 2012 to meet Doris and talk about my findings and see her substantial file of information on her grandfather.
My piece on GFT had clarified some of the myth around Greenwell and his last days. Even the Northern Echo newspaper in the United Kingdom published a line back in 2009 suggesting that Greenwell had returned to northern England to Middlesborough and had owned a pub.
Anyway, the follow up to this meeting that took place in a nondescript shopping centre in northern Toronto was that at the age of 16 Doris, her mother and brother had moved from Peru to Canada. This is principally due to Doris’s education. Although they meant to go to California, due to visa requirements and so on, Canada became the preferred option.
So what of Doris Greenwell, Jack Greenwell’s wife? Apparently the Greenwell family enjoyed a more than comfortable lifestyle in Spain when Jack was coaching Barcelona, Valencia and Sporting Gijon amongst other clubs. And of course their social standing was one of recognition and privilege. So, once the Civil War broke out in Spain and the family was shipped off to England (Greenwell himself was on the last boat out), Greenwell then took a job in Turkey coaching there. Then the Peruvian national side came knocking and unable to find meaningful football employment in England, Greenwell took the job, uprooting his young family once more.
Life in Lima was not as Doris Greenwell had expected. Apparently there were issues with payment; the city wasn’t up to the standards that they had known in Spain and other problems. We think, and so does Doris Hahn, that Greenwell was an assistant coach for Peru in the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin. Peruvian football has had its ups and downs but the side which competed in Germany made up part of the Golden Generation and they saw off Finland 7-3 and Austria (eventual silver medalists) 4-2 in extra time. All sorts of controversies abound about the Austria game, but suffice it to say that Peru did not turn up for the replay and were then disqualified.
Back in Lima, Greenwell continued coaching the national side, and like my article says, took them to the Bolivarian Games in Colombia before then later taking a post in Barranquilla. As an interesting side note Doris Hahn mentioned that her mother recalls her grandfather of having to act like a police officer with the Peruvian players and having to pull them out of bars on nights before games. Times have not changed! What little research I have been able to do leads me to believe that he was coach for Junior before being lured to Bogota where after a few false starts he took over Independiente de Santa Fe.
Anyway, this meeting has opened more avenues for investigation rather than closing the topic and has left me wanting to research the life and times of Jack Greenwell to even greater depths. If I can get information from Peru regarding his time there, this would be very useful and of course, anything about the early days of Junior de Barranquilla would open a whole new avenue for investigations into expat life in Colombia in the 1940s.
So why did Doris Greenwell and her daughter Carmen stay in Lima? Well, to keep it short, Doris was tired of the continual upheavals and moving from place to place. She opted to stay in Lima and she and Jack separated. Jack Greenwell came to Colombia alone and passed away here, his remains lay in an unmarked grave in the British Cemetery or in the Cementerio Central in Bogota. So little of his life here is known, I have tried without success to find players who were in his teams, but these would be elderly men in their 80s now if they are even still alive. Someone somewhere has access to more information, hopefully, over time I too will be able to unearth further details about Jack Greenwell’s remarkable life.