A Hakoah hero passes away..

September 10, 2019 by Victor Grynberg
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Former Hakoah player and coach Gerry Chaldi passed away this week in the Montefiore Home in Sydney’s Hunters Hill on the day his daughter Alex was married in Israel where she lives.

Gerry Chaldi with the Chairman Andrew Lederer of the newly named Sydney City soccer club in 1980. Photo: Hakoah

His daughter Tammy lives in Sydney and his son Daniel lives in Canberra.

At that time Hakoah held an important role in Sydney’s amongst Sydney’s new European Jewish migrants who shared in the team’s success.

Former Hakoah long-time president Sir Frank Lowy told J-Wire: “Gerry Chaldi’s passing is a sad event for all of us who were so intimately involved with Hakoah at the time. All of our memories about him are positive – boy did we have a good time. While I’m sad to learn of his passing I do remember the wonderful times we had while he was the star player for Hakoah.”

With Chaldi’s mid-field skills at the forefront of the team’s prowess, Hakoah won the State League Championship in 1961 and 1962.

The team included many of the Austrians who were to revolutionise soccer in Australia.

In 1962 Chaldi and the team travelled to Brisbane to play an Australia Cup match. A promising 16-year-old Peter Fuzes travelled with the squad. Peter recalls his roommateChaldi  Gerry Chaldi as a kind and a dedicated mentor.

Fuzes went on to become Australia’s international goalkeeper.

Gerry helped Peter throughout his career, often going to Centennial Park for a one on one training session. Peter Fuzes said: “Gerry was a big brother to me and showed me what it takes to be a professional footballer. I will never forget his encouragement and belief in me.”

In 1963, they were runners up and then Gerry Chaldi joined Melbourne Hakoah for a three-year spell.

He finished his playing career back in Israel for three years with Hapoel Petah Tikva, the team he had played for between 1952 and 1961.

It was during that period that he had become an international representative player for Israel between 1956 and 1960.

Gerry Chaldi returned to Australia in 1973 becoming the coach of Hakoah’s reserves.

He became Head Coach in 1976 when the team won the final year of the old  State League.

in 1977, the National Soccer League (NSL) began the first national competition and Hakoah changed its name to a more “ethnically “ acceptable Eastern Suburbs Hakoah, before dropping the Hakoah name the following year.

Hakoah won the title that year as it did the next when Gerry brought Scottish star Eddie Thompson from Aberdeen to play with the team. When Gerry finished in 1979 it was Thompson who became Head Coach, first at Hakoah and later of Australia.

Gerry moved to Adelaide with Brazilian star Agenor Muniz to join Greek backed West Adelaide Hellas the following year.

He then alternated between Israel and Sydney, coaching memorably the NSW  Maccabi team at the Carnival in 1987.

His strictness as a strong, yet supportive coach was exemplified by him calling a training session for 6 a.m on New Year’s Day 1987.  Despite protestations by the players he was determined that the team not have a big night out on New Year’s Eve and announced that anyone who wasn’t there by 6 a.m. would be dropped from the squad. The big match against Victoria was just a few days away.

Everybody was there on time, except one. At 6.05 club president Frank Lowy arrived with his eldest son Peter.  Frank went up to Gerry putting his arms around him and unsurprisingly welcomed Peter into the squad. Though NSW was expected to win, they were down 2-1 at half-time. He gave the team the strongest verbal tongue lashing they’d ever had. Finishing with the words “Don’t put shame on me”. NSW lifted and ended up thrashing Victoria 7-2.

Great Hakoah stalwart Phil Filler recalls the year Gerry was his coach, he played his best season ever and was voted “PLAYER OF THE YEAR”. He told J-Wire: “He was an excellent coach who could extract the very best out of his players. On top of that, he was a genuinely humble and nice guy who would go out of his way to help his friends.”

The then Maccabi team was fully amateur but Chaldi trained them like professionals, always addressing the team as “Gentlemen”

Gerry became a keen horse punter at the TAB and this was a favourite recreation for him.

Later in life, living in Israel he’d return yearly because by then he’d become a dual citizen. His final years were spent in Sydney, where sadly he passed away last Sunday, September 8th .

A gentleman on and off the field. A great credit to Israel and Hakoah and a man loved and admired by all who knew him.

 

Gerry Chaldi 1935-2019

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