One year ago today, the Welsh football team pulled off a result that, owing to my often pessimistic outlook, I believe will never be matched again by our national side.
Belgium 1-3 Wales.
Wales weren’t meant to win. Belgium were hot favourites for the tournament and had taken a huge following just across the border into Lille.
Yet the game was written in the stars to become one of the greatest sporting results I’ve ever witnessed. Considering that on this occasion I wasn’t even at the stadium, and I’ve witnessed in person so many incredible feats of football, I’m hoping I’ve painted a picture of what that game meant to myself, to the Welsh nation and indeed to the footballing world.
Look, I’m not a rugby fan. I enjoy watching the sport but it will never EVER take precedence over a footy match. I’d honestly sooner watch a match between Dundee United and Truro City FC than a Wales rugby match. It’s as simple as that.
Perhaps it’s partly down to the fact that the crest that represents my national rugby team is simply the emblem of a foreign monarchy that displaced our own…. or it’s simply because the ball isn’t round and you can’t pass forwards. I don’t know. It’s just not for me.
Over the years, the British and Irish Lions touring side have always given me a headache. Not for sporting reasons, but for political.
It’s no secret that I do not consider myself British. It’s not how I choose to identify myself and I have my legitimate reasons for it.
It’s clear that others share my views too. Every four years when the Lions travel to the southern hemisphere I come across the same rhetoric from Welsh people. Either all-out infatuation for the Lions or complete disgust. For those in support of the side, many will spend literally thousands of pounds on merchandise, plane tickets, hotel rooms and match tickets to see the team in action. Others take to social media to question why Welsh people (and Scottish and Irish too) would ever follow a team with the word ‘British’ in their name.
Knowing myself as I do, sitting on the fence is not my way. In fact, I dislike not spending time organising my thoughts sufficiently to form an opinion. But in the case of the Lions, my sympathy lies with both sides.
In other words, I want the Lions to do well…. but there’s more chance of plaiting fog than me spending money (or even large amounts of time) following the side.
Even as a self-confessed and proud Welsh nationalist, I feel proud to get behind the British and Irish Lions.
- British doesn’t refer to politics here. Geographically, we live in the British Isles – coincidentally the term I choose to use instead of the political terms of UK and Great Britain.
The Irish question is swerved perfectly – most Irish people are Irish and some insular ones think they’re British.
England has notoriously identified themselves with the symbol of the lion, but Welsh and Scottish heraldry is not without this large cat that has never been native to these islands. My Irish history is not sufficient to know whether Ireland has ever identified with the lion…. but three out of four ain’t bad!
And finally, yet most importantly, it shows how four nations that are run totally independent of one another can come together for each other.
My final point does not, however, advocate a United Kingdom. Quite the opposite.
Imagine if British and Irish politics were run like the Lions….
Four independent, sovereign nations who, in their day jobs have their own national interests at heart and work as nations to ensure their own prosperity. But then, whenever and however the needs arose, the four nations can support one another without having to force ideas and laws on each other.
For me, the Lions rugby team epitomises how the nations of these islands should behave; Work hard for your own patch by ensuring they’re run by the people of each nation for the people of each nation but come together as friends in a non-political manner to enjoy and celebrate the fact we’re stuck out on tiny islands off the coast of Europe in the freezing cold northern Atlantic.
I still think Wales should be represented by a leek on the Lions crest, though.
I’r gad, y Llewod.