READ ALL ABOUT IT: Flag brutally removed for apparently sympathising with right-wing extremism via a foreign language!
Imagine that headline! Then calm down when you realise it’s about Welsh so who cares!?!
It’s been a long time since I’ve set foot on the Kop of the Cae Ras. Probably not since my mid-teens before it was condemned to rot – not that it wasn’t going that way even when it was in use!
Since taking a new pew behind the opposite goal at my footballing place of worship I’ve had to endure the sight of the old Kop in its ever-decrepit state. Memories of how we’d plead to Jacko for a song and how we’d bounce around chanting “Let’s all have a disco!”
But yesterday, on derby day against the old enemy, I went again. Twice actually – but the second time hurt me more than the passionless 0-0 draw that would follow on the pitch.
Over the past few years, a certain banner has been flown at the Cae Ras. A banner that not only fills me with pride for my football team but also parades the fact that many of our fans stand against racism, extremism, xenophobia and fascism.
Recently I’ve noticed that the flag has been absent from a few home games so I took to social media to express my sadness at its disappearance.
The response was one of sympathy from an account named ‘Ap Dafydd’ whose profile picture showed he was one of those rare, die-hard Wrecsam supporters; the kind of bloke for whom you’d buy a Wrexham Lager on match day. Incidentally, he also writes great pieces for the match-day programme which are worth the £3 price on their own!
He explained how he and his mates owned the anti-fascist flag and that they’ve been unable to make home games recently due to work commitments etc. His subsequent request filled me with more pride than I cared to admit at the time.
You can guess my response. Via messenger my reply was calm and mature – “I’d love to, pal,” I returned. In truth and in reality I was bouncing wilder than if Jacko had just told us to have another disco at the back of the Kop! Wow!
Ryan – to use his real name – told me he’d pop round to my house and drop off the flags on a Saturday morning…. which he did. We shook hands and had a quick chat about the antifa scene in Wrecsam. Then he gave me the flags and a few stickers to plaster around. We shook hands again and he left.
Then, there it was…. that awesome flag…. laid out on MY sofa…. in MY house. The only thing getting me down was I’d have to wait a good 10 days to put it up at the Cae Ras!
But 10 days soon passed and my mate and I whacked it up on the lower tier of the Glyndŵr University Stand. I was buzzing. A late winner snatched the game for the Dragons. I grabbed the flag, folded it neatly away and left.
Next up at home…. Ch*ster.
Derby day arrived. I’d woken up at just-gone 5am due to the excitement only football fans feel when their rival club is in town. I showered, donned my Wrecsam shirt, jeans and red Adidas trainers (the ones I only wear on special occasions!), printed off my match tickets and packed that famous flag. Then I waited some 4 hours with 17 pieces of toast and 13 cups of tea with 13 sugars…. IN EACH CUP!
We left for the Cae Ras around half 10 for the quarter-past-midday kick off. Getting there early meant I’d have ample time to go to the club shop (to be, once again, told the jacket I wanted wasn’t in stock in my size), grab a Wrexham Lager and put the flag up before finding my pew for the game.
A friendly steward told me that the Kop was the best place for the flag due to the segregating netting in the Mold Road Stand. I was all too happy to concede – I’d get to go back to the Kop!
I walked through the Mold Road concourse and met a couple of stewards who told me to go and put the flag up anywhere along the old stand. I chose a neat spot low down near the goal and started to tie it to the old red-and-white railings. It seems silly but simply placing my hands on the cold metal bars brought back so many memories of league clashes against Shrewsbury, Man City, Wigan and Hull…. FA Cup giant killings like Middlesborough in ’99…. Staying up against Boston. I kind of wanted to go to the old turnstile and leave £7 on the side…. you know, for old time’s sake.
You should’ve seen my face as I strolled back through that concourse ready to loudly explain to ‘local’ people (who I didn’t know) how they had failed in keeping their club alive. It was the type of grin of which chewing 16 lemons would struggle to get rid.
Derby day. Let’s do this. I’r gad, Wrecsam.
5 or 10 minutes before kickoff my brother tapped me on the shoulder.
“Ste, where’s the flag gone?”
I looked to my right. Scanning the old Kop I couldn’t pick out the brilliant green banner. I was up like a flash. “Excuse me, lads.”
My pace back through the concourse was somewhere between a brisk stroll and a light jog – that was as fast as the Wrexham Lager in my belly would allow. I arrived at the far end to find the flag untidily rolled up on the side of stand. I picked it up and approached a member of Cynergy Security – the Cae Ras stewards who encouraged me to put the flag up in the first place had left. The following conversation with this ‘mercenary’ guard will stay with me for a long time:
I asked him politely whether he had removed the banner.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because it’s got a swastika on it.”
He’d taken it down because – despite the thick, red line through the fascist symbol – it had a swastika on it.
It seemed that showing this man the blatant ANTI-fascist symbology was not enough to sway him to allow me to replace the banner.
It also seemed that explaining how the writing ‘Cefnogwyr Wrecsam yn erbyn ffasgaeth‘ (further proving that this flag was the complete opposite to the disgusting Nazi-sympathising extremism we unfortunately still see even today in our society and in our politics) was not enough to change his mind.
“Look I’m Welsh but I don’t speak Welsh” he pleaded.
“So?” I returned. “Let me translate it now for you then.”
“I don’t care what it says. The opponents today don’t speak Welsh and they might misunderstand it.”
Did he REALLY just say that?
I went on to explain how we’re in Wales and whether or not visitors make the effort to learn our native language should not mean that parading Cymraeg in our home suffers. Why should we stop using the old language just because they can’t understand it? Would I go to Sweden and moan that I can’t comprehend a banner because it’s in Swedish? No.
Unsurprisingly, this explanation didn’t wash with him either.
“With all due respect,” I continued, “our opponents are ALWAYS from England. We’re in an English league system.”
Not once have I ever seen or heard of this banner being taken down because the visiting English fans can’t understand it.”
My new friend didn’t have an answer for this either apart from;
“Well I didn’t see it up last game.”
I was becoming slightly irate at this point. My temptation was to show him a picture my friend took of the flag that we’d put up at the last home game to prove that my new chum perhaps required a trip to Specsavers. I refrained.
I also, and perhaps wisely, refrained from responding with “on the contrary, I don’t remember seeing YOU here in the last home game. You lot are only here because it’s the derby.”
The game was about to start so I conceded and walked back to my seat. I was fighting a losing battle. I was also f*cking fuming!
A smile returned to my face when I saw the ever-amazing Cambria Band walk past the old Kop ready to welcome the teams to the field.
Then – if only to emphasise the lack of knowledge displayed in my previous confrontation – to the immediate left (😉) of the marching Cambria Band and where I had moments earlier placed our anti-facist banner…. I saw an FWA flag proudly flying.
I’d like to think our friends at Cynergy Security simply missed this 1960s Welsh symbol of the White Eagle of Snowdon but my guess is that ignorance and lack of education was to blame.
What’s the FWA?
To my sadness, it seems no one knows (nor even cares about) the way to Abaty Cwm-hir anymore….
Stephen, forget it. It’s just a flag. It’s just a game.
Of course, I beg to differ.
Gutted, antifa face <-: