World Cup 98 throwback | England fans in New York

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The streets and bars of The Big Apple become a vibrant mix of countries, colours and cultures…

But this was the 1990s, not Qatar 2022, and London photographer David Corio was there to record it all for the New York Times.

Ealing born Corio had sampled a taste in the States when USA hosted the 1994 tournament. He knew come France 98 that NYC could again be buzzing and set out to capture all the bar room drama, of England against Argentina, and all the vibrant colour and calypso that accompanies the Brazilians whenever they hit town.

England football fans World Cup
Despite going 1-0 down early on after a Batistuta penalty, England would find themselves 2-1 up thanks to a Shearer penalty and Michael Owen’s iconic goal. © David Corio
England football fans World Cup
England fans watch their last 16 France 98 World Cup match against Argentina in a bar in New York. © David Corio

“I lived in New York for 16 years from 1992,” he said. “Although football wasn’t really popular then with Americans and wasn’t on TV, when the US hosted the World Cup in 1994 the games got covered on television and made me realise even more what a melting pot NYC was. 

“There were fans from most of the nations wearing their countries’ shirts. I only shot England fans and Brazilians after they won in Little Brazil on W46th Street. 

“Four years later I was working for the New York Times and suggested making it into a photo essay centred around bars and cafes where people congregated to watch the games. 

England football fans World Cup
England v Argentina, France 98. © David Corio
England football fans World Cup
England v Argentina, France 98. © David Corio

“There were quite a few challenges – some people didn’t want to be photographed at all, some games were 0-0 and there was no atmosphere and some fans didn’t seem too bothered even when they won. 

“Quite a lot of bars would have fans from both nations watching and drinking and it was usually good humoured banter. The only one which got a bit tense that I went to was England v Argentina which Argentina won on penalties. The Falklands War was still fairly fresh in memories which added a bit of spice. 

“Penalty shoot outs are always the worst way to get knocked out too. It didn’t really kick off much though as there were only a few Argentinians to brave the bar I was in and they got out pretty quick.”

England football fans World Cup
England v Argentina, France 98. © David Corio

A photographer for over 45 years, Corio  grew up in Gloucestershire, following Swindon Town in the late 60s and early 70s. He now lives in Islington, supports Arsenal, and can remember the two goals Don Rogers scored for Swindon in their 1969 League Cup final giant killing victory… over The Gunners. 

He also has a soft spot for Brentford.

“My Grandad and uncle supported Brentford and took me to a couple of games but I was probably about four or five and can’t really remember them to be honest,” he said. “I always have a soft spot for them though. Glad they are doing so well now.”

His earliest main football memory was watching the 1966 World Cup, “on our black and white TV,” he recalled. “The England red shirts still look strange to me.”

England football fans World Cup
Zanetti would equalise for Argentina before David Beckham’s red card for his kick out at Diego Simeone. © David Corio
England football fans World Cup
The match finished 2-2 and Argentina would go on to win the penalty shootout. © David Corio
England football fans World Cup
England v Argentina, France 98. © David Corio

He first picked up a camera when he was around 12, and that has led to a lifetime of memorable moments, including photographing Bob Marley in concert in the 1980s.

“I always travel as light as possible,” he said. “For New York It was probably a Nikon 801 and flash gun with a couple of wide-angle lenses and this was pre digital so using Fuji colour neg film.

“I borrowed my Dad’s camera when I was 12 or so and started doing a course at night-school when I was 14. I thought it would be a good way of getting out of school and got accepted to art college in Gloucester when I was 16. 

“I moved back to London when I was 18 (in 1978) and started shooting lots of gigs as it was an exciting time musically and culturally then.

“I left prints at the New Musical Express (NME) as I worked in an off-license round the corner. After about six months they started to commission me to shoot some shows and it went on from there. 

“I went freelance when I was 20 and started working for other magazines and newspapers and record companies and have been freelance ever since.

England football fans World Cup
England v Argentina, France 98. © David Corio
Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate their 4-1 France 98 World Cup win against Chile on West 46th Street NYC. © David Corio
Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate World Cup win against Chile. © David Corio
Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate World Cup win against Chile. © David Corio

Photographically he lists as inspirations Bill Brandt, Andre Kertesz, Roy DeCarava, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier Bresson, Man Ray, W Eugene Smith and his “good friend” Val Wilmer.

“I tried my hand at writing a few times for NME, Black Echoes and City Limits but realised that a photo or sequence of photos could often tell a story far better than any of my attempts at describing something in words,” he said.

“Some of those photographers I mentioned like Smith, DeCarava were masters at telling stories through striking imagery. I try to observe and keep a low profile and build a story without being too intrusive. Sometimes circumstances don’t work out and sometimes you get lucky. Being patient helps and being in the right place at the right time too.”

Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate World Cup win against Chile. © David Corio

He was in the right place to capture Bob Marley performing at Crystal Palace Bowl in 1980, a favourite picture. “I was standing chest-deep in a lake at the time so it made it an extra challenge too,” he said. “One of Nina Simone at Ronnie Scott’s comes a close second.

“I’ve always been drawn to photographing youth cultures and different music styles really. I’ve been lucky to photograph different musicians and the different trends and fashions that go along with them over quite a period. 

“Historically those fashions cross over to the general public and some to football fans – be it skinheads, casuals, etc, though you don’t see too many New Romantics or goths at football matches.

Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate World Cup win against Chile. © David Corio
Brazil football fans World Cup
Brazil fans celebrate World Cup win against Chile. © David Corio

“I shot a bunch of Casuals for The Face – young kids wearing fancy Italian sweaters, Sergio Tacchini, Lyle & Scott, Pringle etc which I found fascinating and also how young the kids were. 

“I’m a big reggae fan and there were strong links with ska with mods and skinheads from early days. It is more noticeable these days the way stadiums play certain tunes – Arsenal have Louis Dunford’s ‘The Angel – North London Forever’ that gets sung before games though Chelsea’s ‘Liquidator’ by Harry J All Stars is more up my street – though not the team obviously. 

“I always liked the theme to Z Cars at Everton, a nice nostalgic tune. I wonder how many of their fans are old enough to know where it originally came from. 

“That smell of old rancid oil at burger bars outside grounds does have a strange familiarity doesn’t it? I grew up near Forest Green Rovers ground in Nailsworth and their policy of Veggie only pies and sustainable policies is a good idea but I think that will be a hard sell around the rest of the league. They are also planning to build a new all-wood stadium and the design looks amazing.”

Corio has a busy year ahead, with publications and exhibitions lined up, all testament to a long and successful career. The key, he says, is to try all aspects of photography, not just stick to one field.

“Diversify and learn from the masters,” he said. “Try lots of different types of photography – portraits, nature, landscapes, social documentary. I still think looking at photography books and going to exhibitions and trying to work out how a photo was taken – what focal length lens, shutter speed, etc is a good start and go back to analogue and learn how to shoot black and white film and print photos in the darkroom. 

“You learn from mistakes much more that way and it is very satisfying to do the entire process and get a print you are happy with at the end. Try all types of photography and be prepared to be patient and don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed straight away.”

England football fans World Cup
Despite England not playing in the 94 World Cup, it didn’t stop fans filling bars in NYC. © David Corio
England football fans World Cup
England fans during the 1994 World Cup at Hudson Street Sports Bar, NYC. © David Corio

A book of Corio’s photos of black musicians ‘The Black Chord’, with words by Vivien Goldman, is being republished next year while Corio also currently has work in a show of football fans and fashion/culture at the Museum of Liverpool. Next year his work is featured in Divas, an exhibition at the V&A Museum in London while he also has solo shows in London, Amsterdam and Brighton as well being featured in Fotografiska in New York in January 2023.

If you enjoyed that, you may also like England fans over land and sea, a look at fans following England away during the 80s and 90s.

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