When The Blizzard published Dominic Bliss’ biography of Ernő Egri Erbstein in 2014, we had no idea that it would lead to the rise of an international grassroots football movement, but next month a new tournament will be held in Budapest to mark the 70th anniversary of the Grande Torino manager’s death in the Superga air disaster.
The inaugural Egri Erbstein Tournament will be hosted by the pioneering coach’s first club, Budapesti Atletikai Klub (BAK), reformed last summer by a group of local enthusiasts who were inspired by Bliss’ book. The club plays in the sixth tier of the Hungarian football pyramid and one of the founders’ first objectives was to launch an international club tournament that would bring together like-minded non-league clubs from all over the world.
English club Corinthian-Casuals are among the four teams that will compete in the inaugural event, and for the historic London amateurs it represents an opportunity to mark their own proud history.
Budapest was the first European city that the Corinthians visited, back in 1904, at which time they were arguably the best team in the world. They had recently beaten FA Cup holders Bury 10-3 and, despite refusing to compete in the league or the cup, were able to draw enormous crowds for their matches against the top professional sides. On two occasions in the 1890s they even provided all 11 players for an England side and they remain the only club to have done so.
At that time, the game was still in its infancy in Hungary and, unsurprisingly, the Corinthians had little trouble in winning all three of their games in Budapest. However, the team were struck by the passion of the local players and supporters, and the following year they sent a solid silver trophy – the Corinthian Cup – as a gift to the amateur clubs of Hungary. It was presented, appropriately, by a touring Casuals side in 1905 – 34 years before those two clubs merged to become Corinthian-Casuals – and it remained an important trophy in Hungary until the advent of professionalism there in the 1920s. Fittingly, the first game in the original Corinthian Cup featured BAK, who took on Ferencvaros in 1906.
This year is the 80th anniversary of the merger between the Corinthians and the Casuals and the club will mark their invitation to the Egri Erbstein Tournament this summer by bringing a new Corinthian Cup, to be awarded to the winning team.
The Londoners will join BAK and two other historic Budapest amateur clubs – BEAC and Testveriseg – in a four-team tournament to be played over the weekend of June 15-16 at the Szőnyi úti Stadion in Budapest.
Bliss will be tweeting updates about the competition from his account – @theinsidelefty – and is hopeful about the future of the new tournament.
“When I found out a club had been reformed in Egri Erbstein’s honour, I thought that would be something amazing to get involved in. I could never have dreamed that would have happened.
“Then, on top of that, to be involved in forming a trans-continental friendship that leads to a tournament that has its links to a 115-year-old cup competition is beyond belief for a football historian like me. It’s something I can’t fathom. We’re now intent on making sure the tournament is as good as it can be.”
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