Deydiry Chamba came to the United States from his native Ecuador when he was eight years old. He was a new person in a new land, having to learn a new language.
“It was very tough,” Chamba said. “I had to get assimilated in a new country, to a new culture.”
It didn’t take long for Chamba to become an American.
“Over time, I perfected the language,” said Chamba, currently a junior at Harrison High School. “I have a cousin who taught me English 30 minutes a day. I also learned a lot of English from my friends, who were also learning the language, too. We were all able to come to this community and get accustomed, get close. I was happy. It was much better for me.”
Chamba also had the international language going for him, namely soccer.
“I started playing soccer when I was five,” Chamba said. “My Dad was a professional soccer player in Ecuador, but he was a goalie.”
Naturally, Deydiry wanted to be like his father.
“So I became a goalie when I was five,” Chamba said. “That’s how I originally started out. I wanted to be a goalie.”
But nature would have no part of that.
“I smacked my leg and broke it playing goalie when I was younger,” Chamba said. “I was in a cast for a year. When I came to this country and started to play in the (famed Harrison) Courts, I was playing in the field. Little by little, I started to play forward and I started getting results. I liked being a goalie, but I preferred to play in the field.”
That’s how the goal scoring machine Chamba became was born.
“I was a little overweight when I was younger,” Chamba said. “I had to pick up my game. Over time, I got in shape and started to score more. Everything feels better when you score a goal.”
Last year, as a sophomore, Chamba scored 18 goals, beginning to make his mark with the Harrison High School varsity.
“We knew from the start that we had a talented kid on our hands,” Harrison head coach Mike Rusek said. “He was only one of two freshmen that we had on our state championship team (in 2014), so we had an eye on him becoming a goal scorer for us since like fifth or sixth grade.”
A year ago, Chamba had a quiet regular season, then turned it on during the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state playoffs.
“I had a hat trick in each of the first two state playoff games,” Chamba said. “Every game, I felt like I had to get the job done. It all just came with hard work.”
“It’s the goal of every high school soccer coach, to have everyone clicking at the right time,” Rusek said. “That’s what happened with Deydiry last year.”
So when the state playoffs began last week, Rusek was hopeful for a repeat performance.
“He was still getting the job done in other ways,” Rusek said. “He’s naturally a tough kid who just kept plugging away.”
And sure enough, the state playoffs began and Chamba turned on the jets.
Chamba has scored 12 goals in the last five Blue Tide games, scoring three against New Milford and Queen of Peace, two against Leonia and two each in state playoff wins over Whippany Park and Lyndhurst.
The outburst has given Chamba 26 goals for the season.
Chamba’s explosion has caught his coach somewhat off guard.
“Deydiry has put on a show the last couple of games,” Rusek said. “It’s not a surprise, but I am shocked by the numbers and how close they are to last year. He just does things in a quiet way. After the game is over, you’ll look at the stats and say, ‘Oh, wow, he had three. He also does other things that go by unnoticed. He’s just a steady player and I hope he keeps it going this week.”
The Blue Tide was slated to face Mountain Lakes in the North 2, Group II semifinals Monday afternoon.
“Deydiry doesn’t have the greatest physical attributes,” Rusek said. “He’s a little thick and he’s not tall. I think his brain is moving at a different pace than most. It enables him to play without the ball. He’s already a step or two ahead of the defender. He knows what he wants to do with the ball. A lot of his goals come from being in the right position. I think that’s where he shines, in that 18 (yard area).”
Chamba has higher goals in mind. He said he wants to approach the school’s single season record of 37, set by Ali Lakhrif in the 2014 season.
“I think it’s possible if we keep winning,” Chamba said.
In reality, that would almost be miraculous.
But Chamba said he also wants the school’s all-time goal scoring record, set by Mark Eckerd in 1977 with 73.
“I have that goal in my mind,” Chamba said. “Before this year, I didn’t think I could challenge for it, but now I think I can. It would be a big accomplishment. I’m trying to get there, but if I do it, I’m doing it with my teammates. They’re the ones getting me the ball in better position. It’s worked out better for me.”
“We’ve had some good players come close to it,” Rusek said. “If he wants to try, then all the power to him. You never know. It’s fun keeping stuff like that around.”
At this point, who’s going to deny Chamba?
One last thing: Chamba is also an excellent student, maintaining a 4.35 grade point average.
“I take a lot of pride in my academics,” Chamba said.
So it’s safe to say he scores on the field and in the classroom. Not bad for a kid who once couldn’t even speak English.
“I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am,” Chamba said.
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”