The 1910 Corinthian FC team that toured Brazil
“I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” were the words of a Greek philosopher who shares a name with a Brazilian player who scored 22 goals for his country and captained the great 1982 world cup team. He also played for the same club side, famous throughout the world, as Roberto Rivelino of the best Brazilian side of them all – the 1970 team.
And so it comes to be that the history books may say that Socrates was from Athens, but actually, we know he’s from Belém do Pará and played for the famous Sporting Club Corinthians Paulista of Sao Paulo, five times Brasileirão winners and twenty seven times Campeonato Paulista champions. One of the most widely supported teams in the country, it’s been estimated that 15% of the population follow the team. That contributes to making them richest sports team in Brazil, with a turnover of more than $120m in 2012; indeed Corinthians, known by the nickname “the Timao”, are probably the richest football team in the world outside of Europe.
A lesser known fact about them however, is that their patron saint is St George – who is also the patron saint of England. Maybe this is because, in 1910, a famous English amateur team, known for its feats against highly paid professional squads, toured Brazil and were watched in fascination by, among many others, five Sao Paulo railway workers. Fed up with the elitist and money obsessed professional leagues of the time, Joaquim Ambrose and Anthony Pereira (wall painters), Rafael Perrone (shoemaker), Anselmo Correia (driver) and Carlos Silva (general laborer), residents of the neighborhood of Bom Retiro, were inspired to form their own team and took their name from the visiting club. They also adopted their distinctive white shirts, as did Real Madrid in Spain among others; for the touring side were the famous Corinthian FC of London.
The early days of football in England had not just a north south divide, but a rich / poor one too. Two types of men played the game, in the wealthy south it was mainly played in the universities and many players were professionals – doctors, lawyers, army and police officers – generally men from a middle class, and financially secure, background who could afford to live up to the amateur ideal. In the industrial north however it was a different story – the game was mainly played by working class men – miners, steelworkers and dockers; for them, simply taking time off to play football was not an option and they began to demand compensation for lost earnings. Just as in rugby, which split into professional and amateur codes (league ruby and union rugby), so the economics of sport also led to twelve clubs forming a breakaway professional league in 1888 – the original English Football League; circumstances that were to be eerily repeated 104 years later in 1992 when the First Division of the Football League broke away to form the Premier League over the issue of TV revenues.
As with pro rugby, the pro football league was mostly in the midlands and the north of England with about half the clubs in and around Manchester. In fact it wasn’t until 1893 that the first southern club was admitted, Arsenal, and it wasn’t until 1930 that a southern club won the league – again Arsenal.
But there was a southern club who were as good, and often better than, the pro clubs of the day; formed in London in 1882 by Lane Jackson of the English Football Association to solve the problem of poor results by the England team against Scotland by creating a team specifically to feed into the national squad. That club was Corinthian FC. Avowedly an amateur side, they refused to play in the professional league, set up 6 years later; instead they played only friendlies, and never for any fee. They were also famous for overseas tours and played across Europe and the world – South Africa, Canada, the United States, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Germany.
The policy of grooming England players was a success and for much the late 19th century, drawing on the best amateur talent from schools and universities, Corinthian provided many of England’s players for games against Scotland, and in two games against Wales, the whole squad was from Corinthian. Until the first world war they refused to take part in the FA Cup, as it involved prize money, which is a great pity because they would most likely have won it as their friendly games against pro clubs show.
In 1884 they took on FA Cup winners Blackburn Rovers and beat them 8 – 1; whilst in 1903 Bury won the FA Cup by beating by Derby County 6 – 0, but just a few weeks later faced Corinthians in a friendly and lost 10 – 3. The following year, 1904, they took on Manchester United and beat them 11 – 3; that game remains to this day as United’s worst ever result in a first class game. In 1930 they beat Young Boys of Berne, the Swiss champions, 7 -1 and drew admiring praise from the Swiss Press ..
“The Corinthians were superior in control of the ball, trapping and passing, body control, lightening starts and speed on the run. The tactical subtleties of the game, carried out in worthy, clean sporting and almost youthful joy, were dainties for the connoisseur.”
They consistently drew enormous crowds. In 1924 (after their ban on the FA Cup had been lifted) 50,000 turned up to watch them play West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns and in 1930 60,000 watched them play a mid-week replay against Millwall at Stamford Bridge. As professional football became more popular after the first world war, Corinthian’s influence began to wane and, despite the huge interest in them, they were unable to repeat the heroics of their early years; in 1927 they contested the Charity Shield, losing 2 – 1 to Cardiff City. The club merged with Casuals FC in 1939 and are largely forgotten in their native land, playing in the amateur Isthmian League division one as Corinthian-Casuals FC, but are remembered in Brazil and across the world by fans with a sense of history as one of the all – time great names in world football.
In 1988 Corinthians Paulista invited Corinthians Casuals to a friendly at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo billed as the “father and son” game – won, incidentally by the “sons”, 1 – 0, the winning goal scored by … well, who else – but Socrates.
And the Bible reference ? well if you have come looking for that and made it this far its the bit at the end … “faith, love and charity, and the greatest of these is love” 🙂 …. “I Love Corinthians” … get it ?
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