Corinthian-Casuals: past, present and future of football
A new tournament in Budapest is marking the 70th anniversary of the death in the Superga air disaster of legendary manager Ernő Egri Erbstein. The inaugural Egri Erbstein Tournament will be hosted by the pioneering coach’s first club, Budapesti Atletikai Klub (BAK), reformed last summer by a group of local enthusiasts.
Historic English club Corinthian-Casuals will join BAK and two other historic Budapest amateur clubs – BEAC and Testveriseg – in a four-team tournament to be played over the weekend of June 15-16 at the Szőnyi úti Stadion in Budapest. Budapest was the first European city that the Corinthians visited, back in 1904, at which time they were arguably the best team in the world.
Ahead of the tournament, we documented the stories of BAK and Corinthian-Casuals through the eyes of their players and staff. Stuart Tree is the Press Officer, Programme Editor and Photographer for Corinthian-Casuals Football Club. Stuart has been officially involved with the running of the club for seven years but has been attending games for 20 years.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
There are various players, volunteers and supporters of Corinthian-Casuals during a training session and match day against Wingate & Finchley towards the end of the 2018-19 Bostik League Premier Division campaign.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I showed what makes the club tick on a match day - the build-up, the action and reaction. Most importantly, the people who make the ground buzz on a Saturday afternoon. It was an attempt to portray how a tucked-away piece of land behind a railway line on the outskirts of London becomes a vibrant, colourful experience for a few hours at the weekend
What is your favourite photo?
There are two older ladies sitting together before the match. The one on the left is my Mum! She’s fallen in love with the club, and her best friend and whole family now attend every match day. They cannot get enough of it.
Are there any good stories connected with the people or teams you photographed?
Brian Phillips – the Groundsman, and his twin, Roger, first volunteered at Corinthian-Casuals in 1988 when the club moved to Tolworth. They are ultimately responsible for building up the ground from just a park with railings to what it is today. They have done everything from laying down the terraces to putting up the stands.
His dedication knows no bounds. Despite his senior years, he cycles to and from their home in Sunbury to Casuals at least five times a week. Each round trip is approximately 20 miles. Over 30 years at 5 times a week, it is estimated that they have both covered 156,000 miles on their pushbikes.
Brian continues to amaze us all at the club. Come rain or shine, he’s at the ground from dawn ‘til dusk. Sunday Mornings, often before sunrise, he can be found on the fields of King George’s Recreation Ground, marking out all of the pitches for our 23 youth teams before serving up food for hungry parents throughout the morning.
Brian runs repairs on the ground, sweeps the changing rooms, and mans the turnstiles for every single game – be it first XI, Reserves, Academy and even private hires. He’s looked after the club shop and welcomed many a Brazilian fan that has visited from Sao Paulo. There’s not a job that they don’t do! Both Brian and Roger were awarded the Non-League Paper’s prestigious Un-Sung Heroes Award last year. Sadly, Roger’s health means he’s unable to get to games now, but Brian continues to make the trek on his bike with the same enthusiasm he had 30 years ago.
Why is the Corinthian-Casuals story so unique and important?
The club (and their forerunners, Corinthians) was integral to the development of the game around the World. Within four years of their creation (created by the FA to take on the ‘powerhouses’ of Scotland), calling on the best amateurs from the public schools and universities there were nine Corinthians in the England team. Twice the national squad consisted entirely of Corinthian players. The Corinthians went on to challenge some of the top professional teams in the land including, in 1904, beating Manchester United 11-3, still their worst defeat.
The club’s biggest legacy was to take football round the world, touring in South Africa, Canada, the United States, South America and across Europe, including Hungary, Czechoslovakia, France, Spain, Holland, Denmark and Germany. In 1910, after a visit to Sao Paulo in Brazil, the locals were so impressed they immediately founded a Corinthians of their own, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, now one of the most successful clubs in South America who in 2012 beat Chelsea to become World Club Champions. Real Madrid plays in white shirts in tribute to the Corinthians. We still warmly receive Brazilian fans on a weekly basis and our Facebook page has over 145,000 fans – by far the biggest fan base of any non-league club.
All of this whilst remaining strictly amateur. We’re the highest ranked amateur team in England competing at a semi-professional level and punching well above our weight.
What role does Corinthian-Casuals play in the local community and around the world?
We’re always growing in the local community; we have 23 youth teams from ages 7 and up - with hundreds of local kids wearing the chocolate and pink. We work closely with local charities such as Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) promoting food and coat drives, as well as regeneration projects such as Shed-X. We understand the value of the local community and have involvement with Kingston University where art students are undertaking projects related to the club. Our Academy is in association with a local school (Southborough High), ensuring the pathway to first team football with an education is there.
Around the world, we are well recognised, mostly in Brazil, where we recently toured in 2015 playing in front of 35,000 fans in a historic match between ‘Father and Son’ – Casuals vs Corinthians. As part of that week, we invited fans to watch our training session. The fee was a kilo of food to donate to the favelas. We raised over 4 tonnes!
What does football mean to you?
That’s a hard one to condense into a solitary answer; it’s pretty much taken over my life in recent years. I’ve always enjoyed the game but now, being heavily involved with Casuals can really take over. Not a day goes by where I’m not doing a task related to the club or where conversation doesn’t revolve around football. Thankfully, my partner is very patient, despite her not being into football at all.
What is the future for Corinthian-Casuals?
Hopefully the future is a bright one. We’re competing at our highest level ever, maintaining our amateur status. We’ve been in our ‘home’ for 30 years now – and our fan base is continuing to grow. We doubled our attendances from last season alone! With growth like that, it looks very positive. We’re expanding too, with the creation of a Beach Soccer side amongst other projects planned.
Why is the connection with BAK and Hungary so important for the club?
The connection with BAK reminds us to celebrate our historical roots. The Corinthian Cup was first contested in 1904 with the original BAK involved, so to renew this piece of history is exciting and hopefully leads to a number of other re-connections. Corinthians and Casuals both toured extensively in Europe and rekindling ties with old friends takes the club back to our original ethos. It’s great for the players to be a part of this history too.