Saturday, 9 March 2019

Miners


Hi everyone, it's time for part two of last months trip to the continent, this time across the border into The Netherlands to visit Roda J.C. 

Based in Kerkrade in the Limburg region of the Netherlands, the club were formed in 1962 after a merger between two local side’s Roda Sports and Rapid J.C. 
Initially placed in the second tier of Dutch football, they gained promotion to the Eredivisie in 1973 where they would stay until 2014.

Arguably their greatest period came at the Turn of the century as they lifted the KNVB Cup (Dutch F.A Cup to you and me) twice in 1997 and 2000.
These cup wins started a run of success in European competition beating the likes of Bordeaux, Shakhtar Donetsk and culminating in a defeat on penalties to AC Milan at the San Siro.




Roda are known fondly as the ‘Coal Miners’ in reference to the history of the local area, the Mijnstreek (mining district).
When forerunner Rapid J.C. came runners up in the Eredivisie in 1959 there were 10 Miners that made up the squad.

‘De Koempels’ share a bitter rivalry with MVV Maastricht (the team from the provincial capital).
When the two meet it's usually a feisty affair, with three red cards in the previous two meetings.

Roda hold the upper hand in the derby with 22 wins to MVV’s 13.
The most famous of these came in 2017 when the two sides met in the Promotion/Relegation Playoff when only one goal separated the sides after 180 minutes of football.
Daryl Werker scored the goal that would keep Roda in the top flight and resign MVV to another year in the second.

In addition to Maastricht, Roda also share a rivalry with with Fortuna Sittard, that started in the 1990’s when both clubs were in their peak years.

In 2008 with Roda and Fortuna struggling on and off the pitch a statement of intent was published to try and merge both clubs to create a “super club” called F.C.Limburg.
Both sets of fans heavily opposed this, Fortuna started up a fans group called Trots op Fortuna (Proud of Fortuna) and the Roda supporters even hired a lawyer to looking into the clubs mismanagement.
The owners of the clubs didn’t bank on such a strong opposition and finally revised their proposal in April 2009.

Since then though, it’s been hard going for the miners, who were finally relegated after a 41 year stay in the top flight and have fluttered between the first and second divisions ever since.

This season has been yet another disappointing one as they sit 17 points off the automatic promotion place, but a silver lining is that they do stand a good chance of gaining entry to the playoffs.
(If you get a chance, listen to Rob try and explain the playoff system in one of the interviews)





The current coach is Robert Molenaar of Leeds and Bradford fame. (One for the very niche group of 90's Yorkshire football fans amongst us).
He seems to be quite an unpopular choice with the fans as there’s an Instagram page dedicated to him getting sacked!




Now you have had a lesson in the clubs of southern Holland, I’ll tell you about the day...

I woke up in Wuustwezel, Northern Belgium the day after the Bruges win with a head full of Jupiler, a match ticket for the game that evening and a pocket full of credit cards that are apparently no good anywhere. (More on that later)
I was driven across the Belgian border by the ever trusty Roy, who dropped me into Breda with just enough time to catch my train to Eindhoven where I’d have to change trains for Heerlen (Roda territory)

I arrived in Heerlen to meet Joe, my friend who’d just moved to the Limburg area and Roda are going to be his new local club.

A quick stop off for a few beers at his house and to meet up with Joe’s brother in law Gaz (who’d driven from Brussels just for the match) and we set off trying to find the bus to town.
€3.55 (or £3.55 in the current exchange rate) for a single trip of about 5 minutes I thought was a bit steep, but it got us into the the central square where all the bars were.




€1 for a small (I mean small 180ml) beer more than made up for the bus trip.




The Parkstad Limburg stadion can be soon a long way off, it’s vast floodlights illuminate the darkness of the car park and shops that surround the ground.



It’s a tidy, modern and pretty big stadium for the size of the club that Roda are.
It’s based in what I suppose is a “leisure park” and has a cinema, shops, restaurants and even a casino.

The latter came in very handy as for some reason, nowhere in Holland takes MasterCard, Amex or Visa and I had no cash!
Luckily the Casino let me buy credit to play roulette with my card and I ended up leaving €25 up.



After that we found the supporters bar under one of the stands and met a really good set of home fans (The best part of the night, as you’ll soon hear about the uneventful match itself) until kick off when we went into the ground.




About the match itself, uneventful is overselling it somewhat.
We thought we were in for a cracker as the home team scored before we’d even reached our seats.
Livio Milts blasted home a pass from star man Mario Engles.
Unfortunately though, it peaked early...very early!





That was pretty much the only thing that happened in the first half.

Credit to the Roda fans on the Koempel tribune they made themselves heard, even if the rest of the 6,535 crowd didn’t.





I didn’t see or hear any away fans in the ground but I could be wrong.

It’s probably one of the longest trip in the Netherlands at 660km (round trip) so I can understand why very few or any at all made the journey.




The second half continued in much the same vain really, minimal chances from both sides until the end when Cambuur made the home keeper work to defend Roda’s lead.





All in all it was a poor game, the standard was fairly similar to that of the Wycombe vs AFC Wimbledon game that I covered in December.
Not that the home fans will mind as it was vital win for Roda in their hunt for a playoff place.




After the game we headed into the supporters bar within the main stand, named ‘The Mine Shaft’ where for some reason even though the game had finished you still needed to buy tokens from the concourse to get a beer. (They like to make it hard to buy a beer at football in Europe it seems). 

Thereafter it’s all a bit of a blur, but I do remember buying chips and mayo at about 3am back in the Heerlen Market square. (For some reason Ordering them in broken German rather than Dutch, or English, which would have been easier)

There was a big day ahead as we were off to Germany to watch Schalke so it was off to bed for me.

Hope you all enjoyed it, Germany next week. So look out for it.

Jamie


P.S
I didn't get a chance to meet Pim, another Roda fan but he was nice enough to send me some bits about him and his club, I asked him similar questions to Rob and his answers are below




About Me

My first match of Roda JC has to be around 2009 or 2010. My neighbour had some relations at the club and she gave me some free tickets for a match. I have been born and raised in Kerkrade, but I never previously interested myself in football. But I went to that game with one of my best friends and I really enjoyed myself.
After that my neighbour would regularly get us  tickets to home matches of Roda JC, and I really started to like the game and the club.
I am, for the eight year in row, a season ticket holder. I watch every game with my friends on the Koempeltribune (West side).

I try to make it to every home game, because it is my passion, but for the last two years I have lived in Tilburg for my school. Every week I travel like 2.5 hours with the train to see my beloved Roda JC. Sometimes, because the trains don’t run or I don’t have time because of i’m studying, I can’t go. But that has only happened four times until now. (including the match against Cambuur).

The club is more than just a club for me. The fans, the stadium and the people give me a special thing in life. If I had a wife, I would call Roda JC my second love, haha. Since this year I’m not only watching the game from the stands. I’m part of the press for my own fanpage (Roda_Tweets). And my study – journalism –  has opened this specific door for me.

Because I have to travel quite far, I don’t have a daily matchday routine anymore. Back when I lived in Kerkrade, I did often grab some beers before the kickoff in the stadium with some friends or we went to take a pizza or a hamburger before the game.



The club
Roda JC is a club which has a rich and long history. Till 2000 the club played their home matches at Sportpark Kaalheide. When you see that stadium, you’ll get why Roda JC is called a club of the fans. Kaalheide is the real football culture, but the lack of security and UEFA-guidelines (and because Roda JC was a steady mid table Eredivisie-side) we moved to a new stadium. The new Parkstad Limburg Stadium (PLS), Roda JC played many European matches against Schalke 04, Valencia and the great AC Milan. The home match vs Milan for the last-16 was a defeat by ‘just’ 0-1. But in the San Siro, Roda did the unexpected. We won by 1-0, but unfortunately got knocked-out on penalties.

‘Supporting RJC is everything’, like we sing on the stands. Roda without their diehard fans would already be bankrupt. Over the last 6/7 years the fans have kept the club alive.
The board made some huge mistakes, and that’s also the reason the club moved from a steady mid table Eredivisie side to a relegation side and now this season even  a mid table club in de Keuken Kampioen Divisie (Eerste Divisie). Back in the season 2013/14 Roda fired three coaches and ended the season with the inexperienced coach Jon Dahl Tomasson. We had that season a more than great squad, but only on paper. We got relegated as number 18, the season after we played in the relegations play-offs.

In the the season after,  Roda got promoted again, but I think it wasn’t really fair. Our squad wasn’t that great, but after all we could play playoffs. In the final we beat NAC Breda over two matches, which resulted in a great promotion party on De Markt in the centre of Kerkrade.

In the following years, the board failed again. With the appointment of director Ton Caanen as the saddest choice ever. The man got himself the position with a fairytale story about a connection he could make with the big Tottenham Hotspur. He would make Roda JC the new Vitesse Arnhem (connection with Chelsea). But, that was complete bullshit. We only got ONE (!) player on trail, by the name of Kyle Walker-Peters. But the board and coach Darije Kalezic weren’t impressed by him.

After that Caanen bought players from around the world. Names like Simon Church, Simeon Raykov, Lyes Houri, Stefan Savic (no, not the one from Atletico Madrid), Nestoras Mytides and Thanasis Papazoglou came to Kerkrade. Fun fact, we loaned Beni Badibanga from Standard de Liege and he didn’t even know what Kerkrade was. In an interview he got the question ‘how does it feel to be in Kerkrade’ and he looked really confused and asked: ‘Kerklaar? Whats that?’ Well, Kerkrade was the city you were going to play your matches. And Kerklaar? That’s the right description of what was going on with our club…

Now though, we have a good director, Harm van Veldhoven. He is one of our old coaches from our late-glory-years. He knows the club and said by his appointment that he was going to improve the Youth academy. He kept his words. In matter of facts, our starting-XI got seven players who played in our youth first. But that is more of financial problems (who were created by Ton Caanen and some other directors).

The rivalry between Roda JC and MVV Maastricht is at a higher level. Roda’s rival is also Fortuna Sittard, because we share the province of South Limburg. But the rivalry with MVV is the biggest. It’s the FC of the province-capital (Maastricht) against the FC of the peoples club who’s having the biggest history (Roda). You can compare it a little bit with Ajax-Feyenoord. The fans are living towards this derby days – maybe weeks – before matchday. A move between Roda and MVV is a little bit a no-go. In 2014 Roda JC took over three MVV-players, Tom van Hyfte, Nathan Rutjes and Danny Schreurs. For Schreurs, the move was extreme. Days before the derby, fans of MVV hung-up a plastic prop with his face on his house. They would ‘kill’ him if he’d score. Roda JC put Schreurs and his wife a few days in a hotel so they weren’t in a high risk.

The merger between Roda JC and Fortuna Sittard was also including MVV Maastricht. The fans were threatening the project-leaders, so – after a few months – they shut down the talks of a merger.

I don’t think Roda JC is well supported in the Eerste Divisie. The PLS has a capacity of almost 20.000 people, but there are only about 6/7K peoples on the stands these days. In our previous Eerste Divisie-season it was twice as much, but most fans can’t relate anymore with the club and it’s players. I get why they think this, but (in special this season) you can see what way Roda JC is having for the future.
Unless we have 6/7K peoples in the stands, I think our fanbase is way bigger. One of the most frequently reasons why they aren’t on board at home matches, is that we play on friday nights. Some people can’t combine that with their job(s).

Roda JC have a friendship with the German-side Alemannia Aachen. Apart from the fact Aachen is a neighbour-city of Kerkrade, the fans found each other. They came to watch some games in the Eredivisie and some Roda fans did go and watch some Bundesliga-games in the Old Tivoli Stadium. Where Roda is ‘only’ playing in the Eerste Divisie, Alemannia got relegated to the Regional Liga West (4. Div.). But the friendship always stayed.

The competition
A spot for the Playoffs this year isn't a sure thing. There are eight clubs in the PO, but the way to play in the Dutch relegation-promotion-PO’s is very stange. I’ll try to explain:
After 38 matches, number one gets automatically promotion to the Eredivisie. Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 are getting a ticket to the PO’s (Unless it’s a Jong-team). And the Periode Kampioenen (period champions) are getting a po-ticket – more of a wildcard. I hear your brain thinking: wtf? Well, after every 9th game, there is one club who’s on top of the table. That team will get one wildcard-PO-ticket.
UNLESS: it’s a Jong-team, they cant fight for promotion, or the team on top already won a Periode, this wildcard will go to the number 2 in the period.


It’s not possible to relegate out of the Eerste Divisie. That’s also a messed up story. Five years ago a big amatureside called Achilles ’29 went from the Topklasse to the Eerste Divisie. And it did not take out very well, because they are now in big financial problems. Yet, the KNVB decided to put a relegation-rule into the Eerste Divisie and made a Tweede Divisie. VV Katwijk, at the moment of speaking, were than the table leader of the Tweede Divisie. They directly said they would not want to promote. So the KNVB put away this promotion-relegation-rule, mid season.

About the Jong-teams. Personally, I think it’s a good expansion. For the normal teams it’s bad to play against them in almost empty stadiums, but for the teams who’re having a Jong-team its good. Look to PSV and Ajax. Players in the first-teams like Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek, Donyell Malen, Steven Bergwijn and Cody Gakpo played for their own clubs every week. They have many benefits of their own squad in a lower division. For example, look to Feyenoord. They don’t have a Jong Feyenoord. All their talents have to go on loan (for example FC Dordrecht), but not nmay clubs want to take a guess with these players. They’re missing out on youth-development.

This season
I really don’t know what to think about this season. A normal fan always hopes that his team will promote back to the Eredivisie, but I don’t know. Our team is around 20 years old on average. If we promote this year, a lack of experience will break them in the Eredivisie, I think. If we can stay one more year lónger in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, I think we’ll play next year for the 1st place. And all of the youngsters will get some extra experience, so they can give an answer on Eredivisie-clubs.


Friday, 22 February 2019

Club


Hello everyone, welcome back to Getting To The Game.
Thanks for all the clicks and likes etc, It's been a really busy month so far.
A trip to The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for three games at Brugge, Roda JC and Schalke 04 and a few beers with some old friends, the main highlight. But you'll hear all about that soon.

First up was a Thursday night, under the lights at the Jan Breydelstadion, for Club Brugge vs Red Bull Salzburg in the UEFA Europa League.




The Club

Founded in 1891, Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging, or just Club Brugge to you and I, are the second most Successful side in Belgian football.
Having not played outside the top flight since 1959 they have enjoyed consistent success, winning fifteen league titles and eleven national cups.





Arguably their greatest ever moment came in 1978 whilst under the leadership of the great Ernst Happel when they faced holders Liverpool in the European Cup Final.. 
 Panathinaikos, Atlético Madrid and Juventus were beaten en route to Wembely where they were finally defeated 1-0 by the English champions.
Unfortunately for the Belgians, this was second time in three seasons Liverpool had beaten them in a European final.
In 1976 it was the UEFA Cup that Liverpool defeated the Blauw-Zwart 4-3 over two legs. 




Bruges hold Matricule number 3, (Matricule numbers are basically a huge list of clubs in Belgium, ranked in order of when they first registered with the football association) which is a proud boast for all clubs in the country. (Specially if like Brugge they are in the single figures)





‘Club’ share a bitter rivalry with Brussels based R.S.C. Anderlecht, often challenging each other for for the league title.
The “Derby of Belgium” is fiercely contested with each side winning two, drawing two and losing two of the last six matches.

The heated rivalry has been know to spill off the pitch too, with violence marring some of the clashes between the big two.
The hatred from the Brugge fans towards 'Les mauve' is usually aimed at their history of cheating (in 1984 Nottingham Forest fell foul of Anderlecht bribing the referee to ensure a win in Europe) on top of a whole host of other allegations that surround the Brussels team.

On top of that, it’s believed by their fans that Brugge are a team of the people and Anderlecht are a team for the well off, bourgeoisie.
Similar to Manchester’s blue and red divide or in Greece between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.





They play their home games the the 29,000 seater Jan Breydel Stadium which they share with rivals Cercle Brugge.
Built in 1975 it resembles the brutalist architecture of Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre or the Trinity Centre in Gateshead, if it’s time but unfortunately that time has long since gone.





The blue and blacks have a proud tradition of plucking players from relative obscurity and turning them into players ready to take on Europe’s top five league’s.
In the past few seasons they have seen Thomas Meunier, Carlos Bacca, Ivan Perišić, Matty Ryan and Jose Izquierdo all pass through the club and on to bigger things.





Talking of the last few seasons, they’ve been kind to Bruges, the Flanders side have been Jupiler Pro League champions twice and runners up twice in the past four years.
Add to that their performances in the Cup, (one win and two finals out of four) and it has become a pretty dominating period for the side.

This season has been a mixed bag though, embarrassing league defeats at the likes of Zulte Waregem and Mouscron have left Club eleven points behind leaders Genk with five games to play before the League splits for the play offs.

In Europe though, fantastic performances in the Champions League against Monaco, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid gained them six points, enough to set up this tie with Red Bull Salzburg.




The trip

As mentioned earlier, this was the start of three games in three days across three countries so early starts after late nights was an on running theme over the weekend.

I left my house at 07:30 Thursday morning to get the Eurostar to Brussels, met my good friend and Bruges fan Roy.
Arrived in Brussels, Train to Berchem, Car to Wuustwezel for dinner and it’s like a click of a finger it's 17:30.
Luckily it’s 21:00 kick off, or so I thought...
A crash on the main motorway through Antwerp meant we missed the Coach and had to drive another two hour to Brugge, arriving with about ten minutes to spare!





The build up to a European night at the Jan Breydelstadion is quite special, much like some of the more famous stadia around the continent.
You see the vast floodlights from miles around, and can feel the drums beating a constant rhythm as you get closer to entering the turnstile.
But more than that, you can feel the buzz of expectation and hope of the home fans.

The game starts after a rendition of You’ll never walk alone (which I hate, but that’s just a personal preference) followed by the Europa League’s second rate version of the champions League song.





Blood was pumping, atmosphere was buzzing and so were Salzburg who got off to much the better start, keeping the ball well and looking dangerous down the flanks.





Defensive frailty seemed to be the theme of the night as the Bruges back line look dodgy at best.
Red Bull’s Zlatko Junuzovic took full advantage of a defensive mix up between the Brugge stand-in right back Sofyan Amrabat and keeper Ethan Horvath.
Amrabat stood appealing for offside whilst Horvath simultaneously slipped over, leaving the Austrian an golden opportunity to dink over the stranded keeper.
1-0 Salzburg.





From them on it was case of “game management” for Red Bull, who used every chance to waste time and get brugge players in the book.




Halftime came as a welcome break for the home team as they’d been struggling to contain the counter attack, specially in wide areas.

Half Time:
Club Brugge K.V. 0-1 RB Salzburg 




A halftime trip to the bar, that served real alcoholic beer! Which I thought wasn’t allowed anymore on UEFA match nights, but was a pleasant surprise.
(Hopefully I’ve not just landed them in trouble, there’s probably no UEFA cronies reading anyway).

Halftime drinks turned into staying well into the second period (I missed the equaliser as I was meeting up with Tim, another friend) but did catch it on the big screen in the bar.





A header from Stefano Denswil that looked not to of crossed the line but was given by the referees watch.

As a side note, my major gripe with football in Europe is the Token/Card system to buy anything at the game!

You have to queue to load a card, then queue to get a beer after.
Then if you have money left on the card when you leave, you need to queue again to get it back!
Anyone with a good theory on this, answers at the bottom in the comments section please.

Luckily Tim has a season card and he and Roy kept me well stocked in Jupiler.

I arrived back in the stand in perfect time for the winner, a deflected cross from the right hand side headed home by Brazilian striker Wesley.





The stadium erupted, then proceeded to bite their nails for the remaining ten minutes.
The Bruges defence stayed strong until full time to give Club a 2-1 to take to Austria the following week.
All in all it was a hard fought victory for the home team, against a well drilled Salzburg side that dominated possession and had more clear cut chances.



The famous "We Are Bruges"

Maybe against the run of play, but that’s football!

After the game our friend Joren drove me, Roy, Sander and Bart back to the Antwerp region of Northern Belgium for a well earned rest, as I had to go to the Netherlands the following day.

You can listen to all the interviews I did on the way back in the videos.
There’s even one in which they all take turns at explaining the Playoff system!


Hope you enjoyed it, next time up it’s Roda JC.

Jamie

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Casuals




Hello all, welcome back to Getting To The Game.

A big thank you if you’ve been reading from the start, it’s steadily progressing with more readers each month.
This month is the last one before it gets truly international for the next few editions so I decided to stay close to home.

If you’re fairly au fait with the lower reaches of the English game you will know all about this club, and their story.
If you aren’t however, I’m about to introduce you to probably the most historically and culturally rich football club you’ve never heard of...

Corinthian-Casuals F.C.

Founded in 1939 as a merger between two clubs, Corinthian F.C. (originally founded in 1882) and Casuals F.C. (1883).
I’m going to attempt to give a brief history of both clubs and how they came together to form the side they are today, if you’re more interested though, dig a little deeper as it really is a fascinating story!

Corinthian F.C.

Founded in 1882 by Assistant Secretary of the Football Association‘Pa’ Jackson, in an attempt to form a side capable of challenging the dominance of the Scottish national team. (The dominant force in British football at the time).
The Corinthians side, consisting entirely of amateur players went on to challenge, and beat the best professional sides of the time.
They once inflicted an 11-3 defeat on Manchester United, still their record loss.

On two separate occasions the England team was composed entirely of Corinthian players and in total they amassed 86 England internationals.

As a side note, one of those 86 internationals was the great C.B Fry who represented England at football, cricket and held a world record for long jump.
Additionally, the first black player ever to play international football ‘Andrew Watson’played for Corinthians too.


Bottom left C.B Fry, Top left Andrew Watson and on the right is Charles Miller.


Was it not for the clubs constitution, disallowing them from entering competitive competitions they would almost definitely have collected a number of F.A Cup wins.
At the turn of the 20th Century they were football superstars of their time.
Famous for taking football all over the world, touring Europe, Africa and the Americas.

One time Corinthians player Charles Miller is famed for introducing football to Brazil.
He left for São Paulo in 1894 with two footballs and the Hampshire FA rule book in his suitcase, not knowing he would change the course of football forever.

In 1910 whilst on a South American tour, the Corinthians visited São Paulo to play local club sides, locals were so impressed by the way they played the game they formed their own club and named themselves SC Corinthians Paulista.
Corinthians Paulista would go on to be one of the most famous sides in Brazil, winning seven national leagues, two FIFA World Club Cups and countless other trophies.

In the summer of 1914 the Corinthians embarked on yet another tour of South America, this time though it was never to be fulfilled.
 Whilst en route to Brazil, war broke out in Europe and the players decided to return to England immediately to do their duty in France and Belgium.

Casualties at the Somme and Ypres would go on to tear the club apart and the Corinthians lost more men in World War I than any other football club of the time.




In 1920's the squad was rebuilt and the club moved into the Crystal Palace.(the national stadium of the time).
Things, though, were on the decline. The team had started to lose it's place at footballs top table and crowds to watch the amateur game were down.

More tragedy struck in 1936 when the Crystal Palace burned down, leaving the club homeless and without much money in the bank.
Like a phoenix from the flames though the club would rise again as they sought to merge with fellow amateur club 'Casuals'.





Casuals F.C.

The Casuals, of whom the fantastic pink, chocolate and blue kit comes from, were founded in 1883 and again made up exclusively of public school boys from Eton, Westminster and Charterhouse schools.
They were primarily a touring side, playing up to five matches a week to keep up with the crowds that wanted to see them.
Like Corinthians, the Casuals had a number of England internationals and their success culminated in winning the 1936 Amateur Cup at West Ham's Boleyn Ground.


   Before the match a medal from that 1936 cup final was gifted back to the club by the family of a former player.

Corinthian-Casuals F.C.

It wasn't until after World War II that the club got a chance to play football again, joining the Isthmian League for the 1945-46 season.
Whilst still not paying players they made steady progress after the war, getting to the final of the Amateur Cup in 1956 and ten years later the club reached the First round of the F.A Cup, losing to Watford 5-1.

The Sixties and Seventies were lean years for Corinthians, suffering a number of relegation's and leaving them languishing in the Spartan League by the time the eighties had arrived.
The main highlight of that era was another merger, this time with Tolworth, giving the Casuals their own ground again.
After a number of barren years the "Chocolate & Pinks" returned to the Isthmian League in 1997 where they have been fluctuating between the two divisions until recent years.

Fast forward to 2015 and current manager James Bracken took over at the helm and the Amateurs have been on the up and up ever since, leading the club to successive play off finals and finally gaining promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division (level 7 of the English league system) last season.

Corinthians sat just two wins from the play offs when I went to visit (26/01/19) and had just won two on the bounce, they currently occupied the highest position of any amateur team in England and the highest in their history.


The Brazilian Connection


As you would have already seen, Corinthian-Casuals are the reason the Brazilian Corinthians Paulista are named.

Throughout their rich histories there have been numerous meetings between the two sides, in 1988 Casuals were invited to Brazil to mark the Centenary of  São Paulo Athletic Club (former side of Charles Miller) and whilst on this tour they played a Corinthians Paulista XI side that included greats such as Rivelino and Socrates. The latter even played a half for the Amateurs.




In 2014 the club once again undertook a tour of Brazil, in honour of the 1914 tour that was never finished.
The Tolworth club faced SC Corinthians Paulista at 'The Arena' in front of nearly 50,000 fans and  the game was beamed round the world on television. Furthermore they managed to keep the score down to 3-0.

The two teams continue to have a special bond, many Brazilians regularly make the pilgrimage to Tolworth to take in a match at King George's Field.

Brazilian Caipirinha cocktails and feijoada bean stew available at the ground.


The Day

So, you've heard all about this magical club's history, but what of my trip?

Well it started in what is now typical Getting To The Game fashion, I drove to the train station, attempted to check the times on my phone and realised I'd left it at home!
A quick dash home, then back to the station meant I'd missed my train and due to the complex nature of the Saturday train service, I'd now have to change trains twice if I was going to make it to Tolworth before 2pm.
Thankfully though, everything else went to plan (unlike on the way home) and I arrived at King George's Field on time.

The ground itself is a well hidden gem of a stadium, you have to cross under a large railway arch to get to the entrance.
Once inside, it opens up to be a sort of giant patio area that's sheltered by the back of the main stand and the clubhouse on either side. Had it not been -1° I think it would of make a great area for beers and a barbecue.



 The 'Mega' Store also located in the patio area.


After a quick beer in the clubhouse I went to find Dan, Billy or Stuart to chat to them about football, the club and the history.
When I finally found Dan and Billy (working on the pitch, like all good groundsmen) we were joined by Jack and Tich, two other Casuals fans, and here's what they had to say..




For the game itself I took up position behind the goal that the home team were attacking. (as is traditional at non-league grounds throughout England)
The boys I had met earlier were in full voice as the game began, a colourful array flags and songs filled the air.
Corinthians started the game like a team possessed, frantically attacking the Bognor goal wave after wave and corner after corner.
The deadlock was broken just eleven minutes in as Hamilton Antonio poked home a lovely through ball from the Casuals right back.


Casuals pressure from a corner.


The rest of the first half was just as entertaining as the first ten minutes, and even when there's a lull in the game, the crowd keep themselves entertained with songs about cheesy chips and trains!
The home side really should have capitalised on their possession and chances but went into the break only one goal ahead.



Half time: Corinthian-Casuals F.C. 1-0 Bognor Regis Town F.C.


The second half lacked a little intensity until club stalwart Danny Bracken let a tame shot slip through his hands and allowed Bognor to draw level.
Five minutes later Bognor had a penalty which was duly dispatched, the game had turned on its head in ten crazy minutes.




A clash of heads in the 77th minute suspended the game for around twenty minutes while an ambulance arrived to take Casuals Max Oldham to hospital (thankfully he's fine now).
So back to the clubhouse to escape the cold...and have another beer.
After the break in play I couldn't force myself to stand out on the cold terraces anymore so I opted for the equally cold main stand.



It was there that I first encountered Brazilian fan Mauricio Franco.
(You can listen to what Mauricio thought of the game, and England in general in the videos below.)




The rest of the game was played out much how it began, with Corinthians pressing for a goal.
Unfortunately for them though it was Bognor who snatched the final goal of the game as the Chocolate and Pinks were caught on the counter in the dying seconds of the game.

Full time: Corinthian-Casuals F.C. 1-3 Bognor Regis Town F.C.


The game ended with little bit of "Handbags At Dawn" after the final whistle.


After the match, I retired back to the warmth of the clubhouse and talked to Mauricio about Corinthians, Football and life in Brazil.


Part One of interview with Mauricio

Part Two of interview with Mauricio


Mauricio and I finally left Tolworth (after being introduced to the Corinthian club president) at around 6pm, Four trains, two cancellations and a few missed buses, I arrived home four hours later.

Corinthians-Casuals is a fantastic club, with fantastic history, but more importantly fantastic people to carry on their rich traditions.
It's well worth a visit if you get a chance.

So... nearly at the end, wanted to say thanks to Dan, Billy, Titch, Jack and Mauricio for being interviewed.
Stuart Tree for pointing me in the right direction (even if he is the busiest man in non-league).

 Lee Roberts who was commentating on the game for Rocks Radio, with whom I did a live interview with just before kick off.
That's Lee with former England cricket captain Alec Stewart who was also at the game


  Last but not least, Tommy Macmillan the Bognor club photographer of whom I stole some action pictures from for the blog,
 So thanks chaps.

See you all next month,

Jamie


P.S.
If you're interested in The Corinthians story watch the B.T Sport documentary "Brothers in Football" it's a great watch.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Wombles



Hello everyone, merry Christmas and happy new year to all the followers of the blog!
Welcome back for the December/January edition of Getting To The Game, it's been a busy month, but still managed to get a trip squeezed in.
Hope everyone enjoys it, and as ever, get in touch on Facebook, Twitter etc.




So as you’ll probably know by the title, this months blog focuses on AFC Wimbledon, and more specifically Wimbledon fans Max, and Mark.
You’ll find out much more about them later on, (make sure you watch the interview videos) but for now I’ll give you a bit of an insight to AFC Wimbledon and what they’re about.
I know this is a well trodden path, so any Wimbledon fans can zip through this bit!

Originally Wimbledon F.C were Formed in 1889 and based at ‘Plough Lane’ their home for 79 years.
After plying much of their trade in Non-League football they were elected to the fourth tier in 1977 after three consecutive Southern League titles. (In the days before automatic promotion) 

Throughout the 70's and 80's the ‘Crazy Gang’ quickly rose to the old First Division (equivalent to the Premier League now) and enjoyed its greatest success in 1988 as they beat league champions Liverpool 1-0 at Wembley to win the F.A Cup.


"The Crazy Gang have beaten The Culture Club"
John Motson


In 1991 following the requirement of all clubs in the top division to have all-seater stadiums, Wimbledon were forced to move to Selhurst Park (Home of Crystal Palace) where they stayed until 2001.
In the May of that year it was confirmed that Wimbledon F.C. would up sticks and move to Milton Keynes, and within two years it was renamed the Club Milton Keynes Dons F.C.
Something at home in the world of American sports franchises but unheard of in British football.

On the 10th February 2002 In response to the move,The Dons Trust was created.
This brought a new beginning, a brand new, fan-run club ‘AFC Wimbledon’.

In 2002-03 AFC Wimbledon started their journey back up the football ladder from the 9th tier of English football.
Followed by huge support, the new Club was promoted five times in ten seasons to finally reach the football league in 2011.
Since then they’ve been promoted again to League One and are awaiting the completion of a new stadium back at Plough Lane where it all began.




Fast forward to the day of the game, it's December 22nd and Wimbledon are bottom of League One and have just replaced former manager Neal Ardley with another Don's legend Wally Downes.

Although AFC had not won an away game since early September, but I set off for the day confident about the game.

I had three people to meet this time round, firstly my best mate Boona, whom I coxed into coming a week earlier when drink had been taken.
He's a Spurs fan but does live in Wimbledon and follows their results, so who better to accompany me on my travels.
I had planned to meet Boona at Clapham Junction at twelve o'clock and Max in High Wycombe for One.(fanciful thinking) 

Readers of last months trip to Malta will know that having a nightmare on public transport is becoming a regular theme for me.
Initially, due to a rail strike, my train wasn't running,
Boona also missed his and after simultaneously missing each other at three different stations we both arrived at London Waterloo. Late.

In the meantime Max got in touch, he'd got bored of walking around the shops (and chair making museums) of Wycombe and wanted to find a pub.
I'd been reliably informed by a few Portsmouth supporting friends that the official away supporters bar was 'The White Horse' so I told Max to head for there.

A few trains and tubes later we arrive in Wycombe at around two o' clock, hail a cab and rush straight to The White Horse.
The taxi dropped us off, I looked up at this building (more 'the slightly off-white horse') and wondered if the driver had taken us to the wrong place, but after a quick discussion with Boona and the sense of obligation not to leave an american behind we decided to enter.



Opening the (mandatory,american horror film styled creaking) door we saw Max sat at the almost empty bar with no one for company but two old men, and a gaggle of off duty strippers!
Yes, we had unknowingly sent our american friend to one of England's oldest strip bars (or so the sign seemed to proudly boast).

Being so early in the day It wasn't in full stripper mode yet but I did have to conduct the interview below surrounded by  fully clothed Eastern European exotic dancers.



Max was a great guy, with a huge knowledge of AFC Wimbledon and football in general, he's currently over from the states on a U.K tour and is watching five Wimbledon games while he's here. 

Please watch the two interviews with him, they're funny and interesting.
Unfortunately the final part of the interview didn't record but Max kindly sent me through some of his answers form the day, I'll pop them at the bottom.  




To be fair to the White Horse, It wasn't that bad, the beer was good and the landlord gave us a lift to the ground in his Jaguar, which was a lovely touch.




We arrived, chauffeur driven, to the ground about ten minutes before kick off with the AFC Wimbledon fans in full voice.

Adams Park is a lovely ground for League one, the magnitude of it wouldn't be out of place in the championship, but the surroundings of trees and rolling hills give it a real non-league feel.
The staff and facilities at the ground are both really top notch for this level and I particularly enjoyed that the toilet in the away end had been left to house hundreds of stickers from away clubs in the past.
I would have got a photo but that's not really the done thing in the male toilets.




As for the game, It started with a goal for Wimbledon in the opening few minutes but that was chalked off for an offside.
The first actual goal came on the half hour mark as Kwesi Appiah fired home from close range.
Wimbledon rode their luck a bit for the remainder of the half as Wycombe dominated the ball but didn't really test Tom King in the Dons goal.



At halftime I met up with Mark Sturges who is the co-founder of SWSG which is the Southern Wombles Supporters Group, for fans based in the south of England.
He was a really interesting guy that told me more about the history of the club and about what it meant to him to support AFC Wimbledon.
Again, Mark is a great bloke, and if you're interested in joining the supporters club, I will post the details at the bottom.



The second half carried on much the same as the first, Wycombe dominated possession and looked threatening from both wings.
The Wanderers wide men,Williams and Onyedinma both looked as if they'd progress to play at a higher level based on their performances.
A great save from Tom King kept Wimbledon in front before the game would explode in the dying minutes.




A goal for Wimbledon right at the end of normal time was cancelled out by Wycombe's Onyedinma a few seconds later, all before the travelling Wombles fans could finish a rendition of  "is there a fire drill" aimed at the exiting chairboy's.



The final whistle rang out around Adams Park and AFC gained their first win under new coach Wally Downes.




When the celebrations had ended we headed off into the cold winter evening to find a pub and check our lost bets.
The only downfall to Adams Park is that it's miles away from anything and only has one road in and out of the stadium, making leaving a real pain.

My thanks go out to Max and Mark for their interviews and Boona for accompanying me.

Until next month.

Jamie



P.S

Details for SWSG

Facebook search : Southern Wombles Supporters Group
Twitter: @SWSG19


P.P.S

Max on his expectations for this season:

"My expectations are that we will most likely be relegated this year, but I’m really hoping that Wally can build some momentum and that we can bring in some quality attacking players in the transfer window. What I wouldn’t give for Lyle Taylor, Tom Elliot, or Adebayo Akinfenwa right now... but hopefully the next big club legend is coming soon, as we really need it right now."

On the new manager:

I wasn’t thrilled with the hire, but at the point I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and just get behind him. The optimist in me thinks that he may just be able to light a fire under the asses of a few of our players. That, and with the connections from him, Glyn, and Bass, hoping we can get a couple transfers or loans in that can make a big difference.


And finally on the Dons Trust and him coming to watch Wimbledon in the future:

I fully intend to stay in the Dons Trust for life. It’s my 5th year right now and it brings great pride to be able to say that our supporters own our club. As for trips, my current plan is to try and make it every 2-3 years. My rough plan is to make my next trip the August/September after the new stadium is opened. But there’s some flexibility there and I’m certainly open to coming back sooner if I can pull it off.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Maltesers





Hello everyone and welcome back to Getting To The Game, apologies for the slight delay but I had no idea editing sound clips and videos was that time consuming!

Anyway, it’s here now so I hope you enjoy it..

Those of you that had seen social media over the last few weeks, will know that this month's trip was a little out of left field, but as the trip was already booked I decided I should investigate the football scene in the Mediterranean Island of Malta.
Malta is a small Island, smaller than the Isle of Wight (for people reading at home) with a population of around 500,00 people.
Despite this it has four national leagues, women's leagues and youth competitions and currently occupy 182nd place in the FIFA world Rankings.




Prior to heading over I made contact with a few clubs that had home fixtures over the weekend, there was one though that caught my eye, Qormi F.C vs Hibernians F.C 16:00 Sunday at the National Stadium.

Whilst doing some research about the fixtures, it was pictures of the bright yellow flags and banners of the Qormi fans that really fascinated me.




Qormi F.C ply their trade in the Bank of Valletta Premier League (Maltese top division), they're nicknamed ‘the bakers’ and were founded in 1961.
Last season (2017-18) they were promoted from the second tier as champions.
They've been runners up in the domestic cup on three occasions but thus far have never had any success at the highest level.
They are currently languishing 13th (of 14) with 4 points from 11 games. 

After a few conversations on Facebook with the Qormi Supporters Club, I had agreed to meet Carl from the club on Saturday of their “pre-game preparations” what this meant? I had no idea, but I was pleased that I’d actually found someone to speak to at the first time of asking.


Fast forward to Saturday.


After flying out the day before, and a heavy night of drinking, I was up at 9am to go and find Qormi.
At this point I had no idea what Qormi or ‘a Qormi’ was, It sounded like it could well be a type of mystical seahorse or an American gangsta rapper?
It turns out though It’s the fifth biggest town in Malta and has a massive Lidl. 

Finally I reached the sports complex an hour and ten minutes later after three buses, a run across a six lane motorway, scaling a 9ft wall and a traipse across a building site.




I arrived half an hour late, but the welcome couldn’t of been warmer.
I was expecting to meet Carl, but due to work commitments he had put me in the capable hands of Braden, John-Paul, Jamie and Kevin.
Upon introducing myself I was ushered into the clubhouse and immediately offered a drink.
I was adamant though, that after spending their day coming to meet me that I’d be the one offering the drinks, so after getting a round of drinks in and it somehow only coming to €5.50 we sat down for a chat and I asked them some questions.








Following the interviews I was taken on a guided tour of the complex, often referred to as “The Nursery” to see where the magic happened.
I was reliably informed that Qormi has one of the biggest youth systems on the island and are very keen for the youth team to progress into the starting line up.

I was shown, the pitch, changing rooms, kit mans room, classrooms for the youth team and even the office of the sporting director (who I would go on to meet at the match the following day).


All of these pale in significance though to what was behind the next door..

The supporters club store, a plethora of flags, banners, scarves, drums and flares, everything the Maltese ultra would need, all in one room. Lovely stuff.




Before I left, I given a goody bag of souvenirs and shown an immense yellow flag that would be on display at the game the following day, believed to be the biggest in Malta.




The following day was match day, the day I’d been waiting for, Qormi vs Hibs, second vs second bottom.
‘The Bakers’ were looking to avoid defeat for the first time in 7 games, and Hibs were looking to regain top spot.
Despite the stats, it was a day of optimism around the club because a new coach (Mario Muscat, who coincidentally had been Hibernians goalkeeper coach) had been installed and he had brought in a few new players.

It may have been match day, but I still had to get to the match..

Another bus debacle was about to ensue.

Two hours, four buses and another building site later, me and my wife Vix arrived at The National Stadium just in time for kick off.

Initially we entered the wrong part of the ground, where we were charged €4 each and told no refunds because we had already used the tickets.
So after leaving that section, finding the right stand and using my best “I’m a stupid English tourist, can you help me please” impression, we gained entry to the correct section of the ground.




The Ta’Qali stadium is a huge open bowl of a stadium that is almost never filled but unlike many grounds I've been to in smaller nations across the world, It’s well kept and very organised.
(Partly down to the overwhelming amount of police on show for a game that was never going to have more than a thousand people at it.)




On arrival to the Qormi section of the ground we were greeted by Carl and the other guy’s I’d met the previous day.


Carl is top right with the glasses, Braden to the left of him with the coat.
 John-Paul is in the pork pie style hat and Kevin is on the left of the photo frame.

We grabbed a beer and chatted about Qormi’s chances for the game ahead.

Prior to kick off (in what I had now realised must be true Maltese custom) the new manager was given a enormous bouquet of flowers from his former club.

The match started in blistering fashion with both sides having chances to break the deadlock, before a goal was scored I couldn’t really tell which team was at the top and which was struggling in the league.





Unfortunately for the yellows though, Hibs got in front just before the break, which at the time was a little against the run of play as Qormi had just had a goal ruled out for offside.




Although the supporters club was only around 40 strong for this game, they had a sea of yellow flags and John-Paul's drum beat out constant rhythm which certainly made themselves heard throughout the first half.


Half Time Qormi F.C 0-1 Hibernians


During the break (and another ice cold Cisk) I met up with Sporting director Edward Micallef, had a chat about the game and the club in general, he was glowing with pride that 4 of the starting 11 for today's game have come through the youth system and one of those was also representing Malta’s U21’s.

I ask him if it’s disappointing that despite all the hard work that he, the club and the supporters group put in, the numbers that turn out for games is still very low?

He replies by telling me that of the last few years a betting scandal has been uncovered and the people of Malta can no longer trust the game of football.

“They do not know if what they are seeing can be believed” said Micallef.

The Sporting Director also adds that the club is linked with Sheffield Wednesday and their youth teams regularly compete in friendlies with one another. 




Whilst I’m chatting, a raffle number is called out and everyone cheers, I’m not sure what the prize is, but I didn't win!

The second half begins much the same as the first with chances at both ends but ultimately lacking a bit of quality and some cutting edge.

If I was going to compare the Valletta Bank Premier League to a standard in England I’d probably say it was around League Two (Division Four in old money).

The basics are done well and they have good technical ability, but as you’ll hear in the interview with Carl, the national team, and in turn the league have adopted an safety first approach and “go out not to lose” mentality which does stifle the game somewhat. 

In the second half, Hibs doubled their lead against the run of play, as a costly mistake in the midfield let the hibs striker run free to score.





It wasn't over though as Qormi got a goal straight back a minute later.




Then came agonisingly close to an equaliser before the final whistle.





Full Time 

Qormi F.C 1-2 Hibernians


As I said in some of the videos, I thought it was a little harsh on Qormi and their fans who sang throughout the game gave a really good account of themselves.

After the game we helped the supporters club put away their banners and flags as the vast majority of the crowd slipped away into the now pitch black night.




Thankfully (to avoid yet another bus disaster) Carl gave us a lift back to one of the main bus terminals.

While we were in the car we discussed the game, Football and Malta in general;






Malta, you were fantastic.
Thank you for having me.
Thank you to the Qormi Supporters Club specially Carl, Kevin, Bradan, Jamie and John-Paul.
Hopefully the team on the pitch will match the dedication and intensity of the fans off it and they can avoid relegation back to Division One.

Until next time.
Jamie.

Miners

Hi everyone, it's time for part two of last months trip to the continent, this time across the border into The Netherlands to visit...