It was in 1938 that Greenwell savoured his first experiences in Colombia leading Peru to win the inaugural Bolivarian games in Bogotá. The Peruvian side defeated Colombia 4-2 and notched up a startling 18 goals in 4 games. The journeyman from Crook Town must have seen something in Colombia because he was back again in 1940 to help organize and prepare the Colombian national side for the Juegos del Caribe in Barranquilla.
The Caribbean city of Barranquilla must have been almost a homecoming for Greenwell since there was a large British community at the time, and this city, with its railways and port, had been a key point of entry for the beautiful game to Colombia. Whether he considered his two year tenure in Barranquilla a success or not we cannot know, for the Juegos del Caribe were abandoned for obvious reasons given the global geopolitical situation and he was drawn to Bogotá with a job offer from the Federación Deportiva del Guayas.
A fateful arrival
This job never materialized, but it was then that the directors of Santa Fe came calling. Hired initially for a six month period in 1942 by then Santa Fe President Enrique Santos Castillo, Greenwell made his mark straight away with journalists from one of the national newspapers, El Tiempo, praising his discipline and tactics. Leading Santa Fe to their first amateur title for the state of Cundinamarca, Greenwell’s last game was a resounding 10-3 win on Oct. 5 over local rivals Deportivo Texas at the Alfonso López stadium in the Universidad Nacional.
Two days later, having finished his morning training session in the Quinta Mutis in western Bogotá, Greenwell was driven home along with other Santa Fe players to his digs at the Pensión Centenario just below the Avenida Séptima. According to the obituary published in El Tiempo, scarcely had Greenwell reached his room when he was taken gravely ill and various other residents of the Pensión called for medical assistance.
Before the doctor arrived Jack Greenwell had died, his Registro de Defunción (death certificate) suggesting a powerful aneurysm. Buried in the British Cemetery in Bogotá, a reflection of Greenwell’s life is not only astounding in its achievements but also the historical timeline in which he lived. He was in Barcelona for WWI and thus did not become a part of a “lost generation.” He left Spain due to the outbreak of the Civil War, moved to Peru and Colombia and was working diligently here during WWII.
Lost to time
I spent several hours in the British Cemetery (Calle 26 No. 17-19) thoroughly scanning each tombstone to try and locate Jack Greenwell’s, but to no avail. His final resting place was not to be found nestled between members of Bolívar’s Albion Regiment, natives of Kirkcudbride and Woking, presidents of industry and banking.
Although there were handfuls of weather-damaged slabs that could quite reasonably belong to Greenwell, the closest I came to his surname was a Greenwood as directed by the cemetery caretaker Edgar, but this was a child’s grave. More than 70 years ago, at age 58, Jack Greenwell passed away and his mastery of the beautiful game goes unrecognized by the vast majority of football fans.
It has not been an easy task – the hierarchy at Santa Fe seemed ignorant of his tenure with them – and tracking down his final resting place and his short life in Bogotá was less than straightforward. It has been a trail that has taken me through the city archives, Bogotá notaries – where he is listed as ‘entrenador de Foott Booll’ – and unsuccessfully to the British Cemetery. But hopefully this investigation can reawaken some interest in the history of the game here in Colombia and in this journeyman coach that made his mark globally in aiding leagues in their infancy get off the ground.