The Alan Boon Cup – Corinthian Casuals FC v Eastbourne Town FC
Tuesday, 15th November 2011, 7.45pm
King George’s Field
Distance 3 miles, Attendance 41
In a galaxy far, far away, long before the champions and premier leagues rode roughshod over our beautiful game, there was a time when gentlemen would engage in sporting combat. The goal scorers received a pat on the back whilst the victors got a rousing three cheers. Huzzah!
Things were naturally simpler then. Men played for the love of the game not the money. And the shirt, the shirt symbolised their unity and their pride. It was to this sporting universe that, in March 1989, The Sheriff of London Shield* was introduced by Thomas Robert Dewar, the Scottish whiskey distiller. Dewar drew up rules stating that The Shield would be competed for annually by the best possible representatives of both the amateur and professional ranks.
Despite having national players on the team Corinthians the original constitution stated that the club would not partake in any competitions. This rule was maintained until 1890 when they competed, for the first time, for The Sheriff of London Shield. The proceeds of the game were distributed to hospitals and charities so, unlike other events, The Shield was seen as a noble pursuit, and thus worthy of the Corinthians endeavours. By the last time The Shield was contested, nearly a hundred years later, Corinthians had merged with The Casuals.
On 28th March 1983, in celebration of both teams’ centenaries and wearing full 19th century kits and, if my memory me serves correctly, false moustaches, Watford ran out 6-1 winners against a team I already knew without ever really knowing, Corinthian Casuals. (How many teams do you really know before you ever see them play, whether in the flesh or on TV? Corinthian Casuals, Harrogate Parkway, Abergavenny Thursdays… Romantic names of a bygone era, that seep in uninvited. The ones that are emulated abroad; Atlético Clube Coríntians, SC Corinthians Alagoano, SC Corinthians Paulista). Despite being the last winners of the six foot high Shield, Watford chose to hand the trophy back to Corinthian Casuals in honour of their past. Such a sporting gestures, was probably befitting of the game, the event and both the teams involved. To all the community was king. Of the two, sadly only the former saw an upturn in their fortunes in the following years. Corinthian Casuals instead fell on hard times, but now have once again bought their own ground, though, rumour has it, had to sell off The Shield to help pay for the property.
Journeys to King George’s Field are unlikely to feature in glossy travel guides, though such is the esteem that Corinthian Casuals is still held in that in footballing terms, it still ranks as a footballing rite of passage. The slip road running parallel to the A3 is truly anything but a thing of beauty. Cross the railway track and all that changes. A small compact ground, in need of some renovation but with ample parking, greets you. The club house was warm and welcoming, and displays memorabilia of the team’s history. Fittingly the word “Gentlemen” can be seen everywhere. A title that ably sums up everyone at the club I spoke to, whether online or in person.
On this cold night, as the team took to the field in their famous Pink and Chocolate shirts, cries of support went up in unison from locals and a Brazilian native named Rodolfo Ribeiro (over from São Paulo to cheer on Corinthians). Throughout the game his Portuguese chants became the backdrop for every move of Casuals 2-0 cup win, and the Samba beat played out on the advertising hoardings was only interrupted by passing trains and trips to the bar. It just added to the spectacle for the 41 paying customers. My other lasting memory of the night will be the chanting at passing trains “The Grass is green, the sky is blue, the railway train goes running through, Tolworth Tower rising high, 20 stories in t’ sky...” (If only I knew how it finished?). This club is without doubt unique, and welcoming, and nostalgic, and wonderful, and in need of your support. Every fan should make this pilgrimage. I know I will be, again.
(*A fore-runner of The Charity Shield, which latterly, probably under the guidance of the same media people that brought us Soccer Sunday and squad numbers, dropped the charity aspect and took up with the “Community”).
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