Civil Service FC is a club with a lot of history. It was one of the original FA member clubs and is the only one still in existence. It signed up with ten others at the Freemasons' Tavern and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year along with The FA.
The first FA Cup matches were played on 11 November 1871. Those four First Round ties included Barnes v Civil Service at Barn Elms, the home side winning 2-0 before a crowd of over a thousand. The club helped the early development of the game across continental Europe with tours that involved matches against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Slavia Prague.
I went to see CSFC’s Southern Amateur League Senior Division 1 fixture with Nottsborough on Saturday, reached via a Bakerloo line tube to Waterloo and train to Barnes Bridge. You just cross the Thames on the footbridge, the rowers straining underneath, and you’re at the ground.
Three days after a great occasion at the top level of the game, England’s Wembley win against five-time World Cup winners Brazil, it was good to see an example of some thriving grassroots football.
By 2.30 there was action on seven different pitches and I watched the whole of the first team’s match and a chunk of the reserves’ AFA Middlesex/Essex Intermediate Cup quarter final with Winchmore Hill.
It rained the whole afternoon but it was drizzly in nature. CSFC, third from bottom in the table, gained an excellent point in a 1-1 draw against the team in second place. Nottsborough’s goal was a cracker, a player moving in from the left to flick the ball up and volley it high into the far corner. CSFC were quickly level which a low shot from close range that was deflected past the ‘keeper.
I counted six people watching.
I have now been to 168 England matches and Wednesday night’s against Brazil just sneaks into my top ten. My three most memorable ones have been Poland in ’73, Argentina in ’80 and Holland in ’96. I had an unusual view this time, sitting in a box in front of the Pitch View Restaurant. My guest’s view was even more unusual, as he had unfortunately forgotten to bring his glasses.
With heavy rain all day yesterday I was just glad to see a match. The one on the nearest pitch to the boating lake featured Gower Phoenix and Veras, the former winning 4-1. The referee, in woolly hat, anorak and tracksuit bottoms, was very good. He kept a dialogue going with the players, explaining his decisions and advising them when to “be careful”.
I didn’t fancy a further drenching, so went back to the hotel to watch Ireland v England in the rugby and later the Africa Cup of Nations Final, won by the Nigerian ‘Super Eagles’.