At the beginning of 2015, I was invited to be the official photographer of Corinthian-Casuals Football Club’s historic tour to Brazil, where the highlight of the week was to play in front of 30,000 fans and a live TV audience. Their opponents were Corinthians Paulista – the largest football club in South America and former 2 times FIFA World Champions?
How does it come about that an amateur side playing in the eighth tier of English football gets to grace the World stage against a team littered with International-standard pros? Well, here’s a little history lesson…
The Corinthians were arguably the first football superstars of the World. They were created by the English FA in 1882 as a side capable of beating the Auld Enemy, the Scots. The team was graced with the finest footballers in the land and became a side that demonstrated a modern approach to how football should be played. The history is staggering; Corinthians are the only club to ever field the full England side (which they did twice) and also hold the record defeat of Manchester United, who they defeated 11-3 in 1904.
However, one of the greatest legacies of the Corinthians was their missionary work. They took football around the world, spreading the Beautiful Game to all four corners of the globe and being instrumental in making it the global sport it is today. In 1910, they toured Brazil and one match inspired five local Railway workers to create their own football team in honour of the way Corinthians played. That club has since become one of the largest in South America: Corinthians Paulista – the two-time FIFA World Champions.
In 1914, Corinthians were due to play the newly-formed Corinthians Paulista, but war broke out as Corinthians arrived in South America and had to return home. Sadly, all but one of the side died on the battlefields of WW1.
The tour in January 2015 was to commemorate 100 years of the ‘tour that never was’. It was a celebration of the two clubs coming together once again. Corinthian-Casuals have a staggering 150,000 facebook followers, of which 99% are Brazillian. The club regularly have visitors to their ground and they regard the part-timers as their forefathers and brothers in football.
The whole week was absolutely surreal. The players were treated like celebrities wherever they went. TV and Press were with them every step of the way. Images of star striker Jamie Byatt and Captain Joe Hicks graced the front page of papers every day. The team bus had a six-bike armed police escort to the main match, stopping traffic and running red lights. They closed the main club shop and museum just so the players weren’t mobbed by fans.
It was also an honour to be by their side for the entire week. To be able to capture this remarkable event was one that was humbling to me as a photographer who had been entrusted with helping to capture this occasion.
The match: SC Corinthians vs Corinthian-Casuals.
Before the match, the widow of the late, great Corinthian and Brazilian player, Socrates, handed out headbands with messages of peace to wear as the players walked out the tunnel. The headbands were blessed by the highest priest in Brazil. The Corinthian players chose to wear the names of the original touring party who never made it in 1914 – this was a class touch.
30,000 passionate Corinthian fans greeted both sets of players in true Brazilian style as they emerged from the tunnel. The crowd never stopped chanting, singing and banging drums for the whole 90 minutes. As this was a fixture played between sides from different countries, the respective national anthems were played. The Casuals’ lads puffed their chests our proudly as the camera panned along the line.
Naturally, the professionals started on top and Danny Bracken was forced to make an early save in the 2nd minute. Bracken continued to impress, keeping out efforts from Renato Augusto and Emerson Sheik amongst others. The whole defence stood firm and it was clear that the home side were out to win. Though it was mostly one way traffic, the amateurs impressed and even had chances themselves; Juevan Spencer and Joel Thompson going close in the first half. It was incredible that the two teams went into half time on level terms.
The second half was much the same story but Casuals continued to hold off the threat of their esteemed opponents. In fact Byatt volleyed home but Danny Dudley was adjudged to have fouled a defender in the build up.
On 78 minutes, the deadlock was finally broken; a cruel deflection off Danny Dudley’s leg in attempting to block Danilo’s shot saw the ball divert past Bracken. Luciano added two more before time to give the hosts a convincing, but somewhat flattering scoreline.
In an homage to 1988 when Socrates famously donned the Casuals shirt to play for the Amateurs, Danilo and Jamie Byatt swapped shirts to play for the opposition. Byatt almost made his mark in the last minute of the game; Luciano received a cross from Jadson and with Byatt at his side, ready to pull the trigger, Luciano took the chance himself to finish the scoring.
After the match, Another legend, Rivelino handed the Socrates Trophy to Corinthians who then passed it to Casuals to keep, claiming that ‘they might have won the match, but Corinthian-Casuals won the tour’.
The players gave away their shirts, shorts, boots and anything else they could muster up to the fans who begged to pose for ‘selfies’ and get autographs. There were so many fans it was almost impossible to greet them all. Back in the plush changing rooms, they sat recollecting moments from the match and reflecting on a day that they’ll never forget.
Author – Stuart Tree
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