From Grandparents to Grandchildren
IT might seem a wholly bizarre stretching of a warped imagination to include European kings Barcelona and inner city-based Continental Star in the same sentence.
But there it is. And for a very good reason.
Barca’s ‘Mes Que Un Club’ ‘ More than a Club ‘ ethos is equally applicable to the superstars of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi, as it is to the Athium Midland Combination Premier club which continues to break down boundaries.
The first black-led club in Britain, Continental Star has progressed from the Kings Norton League through three decades of achievement ‘ as much off the pitch as on it ‘ to finally make their debut in the FA Cup this season. Having defeated Cradley Town in the extra preliminary round after a replay, Star today bid to topple higher league Bridgnorth Town in their tie in Shropshire. It’s another first for the club that grew out of the streets of Handsworth, Lozells and Newtown and which, more than ever, has grown beyond simple football.
Developing social enterprise, helping marginalised people in society, giving youngsters the chance to blossom through sport ‘ that is the essence of the club, says general manager Lincoln Moses.
“We’re no longer just a football club ‘ it’s a social enterprise within the community,” he said.
“I used to say ‘FC’ in our name doesn’t stand for ‘Football Club’. It stands for ‘Family Club’.
“We try to cater for everyone from grandparents to grandchildren. It’s a ‘Cradle to Grave’ approach to give people opportunities for life. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about helping people develop, it’s about helping families in marginalised areas of society, it’s about giving youngsters the opportunity to make the most of their talents.
“We’ve got after-school clubs to help steer youngsters away from anti-social behaviour. It’s about giving them a sense of direction.”
The only way has been up since Moses joined the team as a player 35 years ago. Star shone so brightly that even now no-one is quite sure how many trophies they gathered through their days in the Kings Norton League after kicking off in 1975.
The success continued through the Birmingham Works League with title after title before joining the Midland Combination in 1993 and then securing promotion from Division Three to the Premier inside four seasons. But entering the FA Cup is the potentially the biggest step yet for the club who now ground-share at Rushall Olympic’s Dales Lane.
“For the club as a whole, the Cup is very important,” said Moses. “Firstly, because of its historical significance; secondly, it has generated a great deal of interest from the local community; and thirdly it is an opportunity to gain some finance if we can progress.
“We’ve got 15 teams, from youngsters to over-35s, and it costs a substantial amount of money to keep it going.”
Not that Continental Star are without support. Reuben Hazell, now at Shrewsbury, paid for the kit for three of the junior teams, and ex-Blues midfielder Krystian Pearce, who is now at Notts County, sponsors the under-16s, while former Villa player Jean Makoun offered his support to the club when he came to watch a game.
But Moses, a long-standing ambassador for the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign and a Birmingham County FA council member, could say his role has Royal approval. He is surely the only holder of the Order of the British Empire ‘ presented to him by the Queen in 2009 ‘ to be involved in this weekend’s 167 Cup ties.
Similarly, coach Delton Francis is one of only a handful of staff or players in the ties across the country to have played at Wembley, when the former Blues, Hednesford, Halesowen Town and Nuneaton striker featured for Kingstonian in an FA Trophy final. With ex-Cheltenham player Darren Wright as his No.2, the duo have introduced a greater professionalism in the squad.
“We’ve got one of the best up-and-coming coaches in football at the grass-roots in Delton,” said Moses. “He has been at Blues, played at the top level in non-League.
“We’re a team of young players, many have been at pro clubs but then been released and that can be hard for youngsters. They have probably dreamed of being professionals since eight or nine and then it is snatched away.
“Delton has been through that and his guidance and know-how will help them as players and as people.”
And that sums up the Continental Star philosophy.
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