Aiming to ‘bring a bit of Barcelona to Balham’, Southern Counties East League Premier Division side Balham FC are celebrating two milestone anniversaries this year.
Like the origins of many non-league clubs, ‘The Blazers’ were established ten years ago as an adult pathway for their successful youth side, the Balham Blazers, who were set-up in 2001.
Taking inspiration from the qualities that made Barca’s La Masia youth academy so revered, at the heart of this Wandsworth community club’s ethos is long-term player development.
It has seen the club grow to include over 20 youth teams ranging from under 7s to under 18s, playing in the London and Home Counties Leagues – as well as having a women’s team, the Balham Panthers, who play in the Greater London Women’s Football League.
The men’s senior team has also flourished since the club’s inception, going from playing county league football to the fifth tier of the non-league pyramid over the past decade.
Moving up from the Surrey South Eastern Combination saw them rise through the Junior and Intermediate Divisions, before eventually gaining a place in the Surrey Elite Intermediate League for the 2014-15 campaign.
However, despite finishing third in their first season, they were denied promotion to Division One of the Combined Counties League as their ground at the time was deemed not up to league standards.
A move to Cobham’s Leg O’Mutton followed and promotion was soon granted at the second time of asking with the side finishing runners-up in the league.
The following season saw Balham earn promotion to the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League as well as winning the London Senior Trophy by beating Glebe FC 3-2 before winning the London Senior Cup the following year, beating Cray Valley PM 4-1.
The announcement of a two-year groundshare at AFC Croydon Athletic’s Mayfield stadium in 2020 saw the club transferred to the Premier Division of the South East Counties Football League (SCEFL) at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.
They have since transferred back to the newly-formed Premier Division South of the Combined Counties League for the 2021/22 season where they currently sit 17th in the table with eight points from 10 games.
Yet despite the recent league upheaval and without even considering the impact that coronavirus has had on lower league football, the club has thrived in the face of adversity.
Like the phoenix that adorns the club crest, Balham FC will undoubtedly continue to fan the flames in their pursuit of excellence and aim to inspire the players of tomorrow for years to come.
Special thanks to Will Ross and Balham FC for supplying the image for this piece.
Listen to live radio coverage of Balham FC vs Jersey Bulls in the Premier Division South of the Combined Counties League from 1:15pm this Saturday (kick-off 1:30pm), October 16th only on CWSport Radio.