The man who promoted equality while shaping the beautiful game (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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The man who promoted equality while shaping the beautiful game
This year marks 150 years of the Football Association and a landmark in the development of a sport now followed by billions around the globe. Joe Curtis looks back at the contribution of a Chingford resident who played a pivotal role in shaping the modern game.
The son of a wealthy shipping merchant, Charles William Alcock enjoyed all the trappings of class privilege.
He was educated at Harrow and lived in the family mansion, Sunny Side, on the corner of Kings Head Hill and Woodberry Way in Chingford.
However, Alcock's achievements would later challenge class divisions by bringing people from all walks of life together to enjoy the beautiful game.
He developed a passion for football at school at a time when class defined what version of the game was played.
Upper class players had more time to develop their skills and a good diet ensured they had more energy to dribble with the ball, while the working class version was more violent and based on passing.
But with the founding by Alcock and two friends of the Forest Club in the 1860s, which first played in Wanstead and Leytonstone, local people from a variety of backgrounds played together under new association rules, which formed the basis of the modern game.
The team later became known as the Wanderers because it played at various locations across London.
Mark Wilson is secretary of the club, which was reformed as a charitable trust in 2009, and is proud to uphold the principles established by Alcock.
Commenting on the mix of people, he said: "It made a big difference. You were both just a guys, there was nothing separating you. You were equal.
"It’s amazing to have restarted the club. I get contacted by people from all around the world.
"It’s nice to play it in the spirit Charles Alcock started it in, which is about fairness and equality."
As well as becoming renowned as a hard-working and effective centre forward, Alcock became an influential administrator of the game in his role as Football Association secretary.
He is credited with being responsible for arranging the first ever international match, a game between England and Scotland in 1870 at The Oval in south London which ended 1-1.
Alcock himself would later score in a 2-2 draw between the countries in 1875.
Inspired by the 'sudden death' inter-house competitions held at Harrow, Alcock in 1871 proposed the following: "That it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete."
The world-famous FA Cup was born.
A total of 15 teams took part in the first competition, with Alcock's Wanderers beating the Royal Engineers 1-0 in the final.
The two teams recently commemorated the game by playing again, but this time with a very different outcome.
Mr Wilson said: "We lost 3-1. It was great fun but they were much more professional than us."
Alcock is also a famous name in cricket having played for Middlesex and Essex, while organising the first test match to be played in England when the hosts met Australia in 1880.
He was also a renowned sports journalist, having written the first football annual and edited the Cricket newspaper for almost 25 years.