Corinthian-Casuals – the non-league club that brought football to the world

5 min

Being a non-league club in suburban London can be difficult – with professional outfits often being the preferred choice for fans’ Saturday three o’clock viewing.

However, hidden away in South West London where Premier League clubs such as Chelsea, Fulham and Brentford catch the eye (not to mention AFC Wimbledon and Sutton United), sits one of the leading pioneers of modern football.

A slip road off the thunderous roar of Tolworth’s A3 is where Corinthian-Casuals’ King George’s Field is located and at first glance it is just an ordinary Step 4 non-league club.

The smell of a nearby burger van permeates the matchday ambiance while volunteers tempt participation in the customary 50/50 draw while the side wear a peculiar kit colour combination so often found at non-league level.

Yet, the club, nestled between a trading estate and a park, has arguably played a massive part in the formation of what modern football is recognised as today.

Formed when amateur sides Corinthian FC and Casuals FC joined forces in 1939, the latter being the club known to have revolutionised modern football across the globe.

The Corinthians were founded in 1882 with the intention of supporting the England national team, who were tasting defeat to international rivals Scotland on a regular basis. 

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The idea seemed to work as England began to get the better of their cross-border rivals and on two occasions the entire starting XI consisted of Corinthian players. 

Those players were fully amateur and didn’t believe in the idea of professionalism or entering any competitions. 

Instead, the team became footballing pioneers, touring the world and introducing the game to countries such as the USA, South Africa and most notably Brazil, where the club made their mark on how football is played in South America. 

Their performances in Sao Paulo were so impressive, a group of locals decided to form their own team in their honour, leading to the creation of two-time Club World Cup winners, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista – simply known as Corinthians.

The two clubs have maintained a strong relationship, with fans of the Brazilian giants even making the journey to South West London on a regular basis to discover the history behind the creation of their own beloved club while supporting their English counterparts however they can.

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Such is Corinthian-Casuals’ importance in Sao Paulo that in 2015 the club were voted by supporters to provide the inaugural opposition at their new stadium, winning a poll ahead of European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea. 

The historic occasion inspired the film ‘Brothers in Football’, where cameras followed the non-league club on their journey to South America.

As fans walk into the ground, the club’s relationship with their ‘Brothers’ is evident with a banner reading ‘Brothers in Football, Play For Us’, which covers the whole terrace behind the goal and was donated by supporters from Sao Paulo.

The newly refurbished clubhouse is also a cornucopia of football memorabilia with scarves and pennants from tours and clubs they have competed against in their illustrious existence – including one from Manchester United, commemorating the Corinthians’ 11-3 victory over the Red Devils in 1904, which is still their heaviest defeat to this day. 

From the army of volunteers to members of Corinthian Paulista’s supporters’ group, Fiel Londres, who occasionally come to games, there is a unique matchday atmosphere unlike any other non-league club in the world.

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On the pitch, players only play for their travel expenses and the love of the game with the club very much a community that brings people together in defiance of modern football’s commercialisation.

In recent years, it’s been difficult for the club to compete with the financial backing of other non-league competitors, and last year their four-year run in the Isthmian Premier League came to an abrupt end when they were relegated with three games remaining.

It’s the same again this year as the club sit rooted to the bottom of the Isthmian South-Central table and without a win since November

Nevertheless, they still have a chance to taste silverware, taking on Sutton United at Gander Green Lane in the Surrey Senior Cup Quarter-Finals, returning to the same venue where they won the competition back in 2011, when current chairman, Brian Adamson, was manager. 

Despite the current situation, the club’s position in the pyramid pales into insignificance next to the mark they have already left in how the modern-day game is played. 

This institution is a constant reminder to visiting spectators of how football was once played, and as long as they continue to survive, Corinthian-Casuals will be a pillar of modern football for many years to come.

Special thanks to Stuart Tree for supplying the images for this piece.

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