The Nearly Men

Wales are now ranked below the Faroe Islands in 112th place in the latest FIFA rankings …. is it time for Wales to admit they will never qualify for a major tournament?TalkSPORT, 27th July 2011.

Anyone who classes themselves as Welsh and vaguely enjoys the sport involving 22 men, a spherical ball and 2 sets of goalposts therefore also truly understands sporting heartache.
Only once in the entire 141 years of Welsh football history has our nation qualified for a major tournament without being invited. Up until that point, supporters have endured not only heart-wrenching dispair but also a dwindling interest in the national side. By the early 2010s, we had fallen to 112th in the world – lower than such renowned footballing nations as Benin, Suriname and the Faroe Islands.
It was at our lowest point that a scheme was formulated to start again. Much like Alex Ferguson did with Manchester United in the early 1990s, many of Wales’ often popular names were fizzled out to be replaced with, to a large extent, a wholly new crop. It was an optimistic leap of faith to say the least. Players who had been on the teamsheet before an opponent was even decided were disgarded for a group of youngsters who had grown through the ranks of Welsh football together – rather than via dribs and drabs.
Despite being an avid supporter of the Welsh team (and of football in general) since the early ‘90s, Wales’ Euro 2016 qualifiers and finals tournament made me notice something I’d never before seen in football – the difference between, say, a centreback looking to his left and seeing a leftback, and a centreback looking to his left and seeing his friend.
This group of men were not teammates – they were mates. Perhaps one would sooner fail for a teammate than for a mate? Whatever the reason, my memories of Bordeaux in early June of 2016 prove it worked.

Trwy ddulliau chwyldro’n unig y mae llwyddo – John Saunders Lewis, Tynged yr Iaith, 1962

Who cares about the reason behind Wales’ rise in international footballing renown? Either way, one thing is certain – it took a radical alteraration to bring about change and, ultimately, success.
In honesty, there are many occasions that I notice in life that would benefit from a radical change in behaviour…. the whole Welsh political structure, for one!

Another is the Welsh language and the way it is perveived by the ever-declining (however slowly) numbers of young people who are not yet fluent in the language for whatever reason.
It’s no secret that the hearts and minds of young people are warming more to the fact our nation has two languages – especially when compared with the poor attitudes towards it for large parts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Even in the relatively short time I’ve been teaching Welsh to those young people not yet fluent in the language I have noticed a huge shift in openness and willingness to let the ancient tongue become a part of their lives in various capacities. It truly is heartwarming.

Not only hear it but understand it

Looking at the bigger picture, however, the teaching of Welsh through the medium of English is certainly not without its flaws. There is no doubt that huge numbers of students leave with positive outlooks on the language but rarely (if ever) do they leave fluent. All I ever wanted to do in school was to learn Welsh yet even memorising a Welsh dictionary from cover to cover prepared me for the leap between my knowledge of the language and my confidence to use it.
One thing I certainly do remember from my time as a youngster learning Welsh were the occasions, probably due to their rarity where I lived, when I heard the language spoken in the streets. The only thing that ever elipsed those feats werethe times when I first began to notice that I could not only hear it…. but undertand it.
The differences in the self confidence and pride for a young person to say ‘I heard someone speaking Welsh today’ and ‘I heard someone speaking Welsh today and I understood most of it’ are not only enormous, but they might just save our language.

Since my early 20s, when I first began to admit my fluency in Welsh and rid myself of the ‘dysgwr’ (learner) tag, I have strived to share the wonderful aura that comes not only from learning a language but from learning the formerly-declining language of the people who forged our fine nation across centuries.
Much like my taid (grandfather) used to say; “always leave a place tidier than when you found it,” I am committed to ensuring, not only that every one of my students leave my classroom with at least a little bit more Welsh than when they walked in, but that the Welsh language is in a stronger state when I snuff it than it was when I was born.
Young people are the key. They are the future of this nation and are paramount in the on-going mission of reinstating Wales’ prized cultural gem into the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to call Wales their home.

Can we not learn to speak two forms of Welsh – a Welsh for speakers and a Welsh for learners?

We, as Welsh speakers, must not only subtly yet obviously offer the provision for young people to hear us using Welsh but we must also ensure that they understand us too.
Now I could blindly proclaim to know all the answers and/or patroniaingly show off all the ways I’ve radically altered my life when using the Welsh language around others but, in the true values of revolutionary change, I instead implore those who speak our language to not only make changes in your use of the language in speech but to also take the time to ponder ways for yourself.

And to those who worry that natural Welsh will subsequently die a death were we all to use our language with non-fluent speakers in mind I ask this; Can we not learn to speak two forms of Welsh – a Welsh for speakers and a Welsh for learners?
Let’s not be the generation who tiptoed into the future and took our language no further than it was 30 years before. Let’s grab it and make it a part of who we are. Let’s be sympathetic and welcoming to others. Let’s not accept a Scottish handball in ‘77. Let’s not hit the bar against Romania in ‘93. Let’s not give away a free kick to Russia in 2003.
We are Wales – and whether it’s in football or in language, we don’t really do ‘nearly’ any more.

🙂

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Dŵr


WALES UNDER BRITISH RULE

Wales’ fantastic landscape produces water > English water companies take water for free > English water companies sell water > Some water is SOLD back to Wales making a profit to water companies > Welsh people get water > Wales’ fantastic landscape produces water > English water companies take water for free > etc

WALES UNDER WELSH RULE

Wales’ fantastic landscape produces water > Welsh water companies sell water to Welsh people at reduced rates as there’s no desire for huge profits > Excess water is sold to England at competitive and non-break-the-bank rates > Money from selling water used goes to the people of Wales > Wales’ fantastic landscape produces water > Welsh water companies sell water to Welsh people at reduced rates as there’s no desire for huge profits > etc

Dependence



Independence (noun.)

Funny word, that.

Without reaching for a dictionary I can clearly tell that its meaning is the polar opposite to dependence.

Dependence (noun.)

Funny word, that.

Without reaching for a dictionary I can tell that its meaning implies dependency on an external body.

You can tell I’ve had an education, huh?


Nations who are yet to realise independence are therefore dependent on another, correct?

It must be!

I mean, there can no inbetween here.
Like a light bulb. It’s either on or off. Unless, of course, it’s one of those power-saving ones that have an intermediate setting of uselessly-dim when it’s first switched on.
Ok, so that was a poor analogy!

How about when I ask my students if they’ve completed their work and they reply with “nearly, sir.” To which I respond, “nearly means ‘no.’ Get on with it!”?

So, as Wales, for example, is yet to win her independence, we are a ‘dependent nation.’

But on whom are we dependent exactly?

When one reads the facts it becomes excitingly clear that Wales isn’t quite as dependent on England as it may seem.

One of the most common counter arguments from those opposing Welsh self-governance is that we’re dependent on England.
In most, if not all, cases of when someone ignorantly (yet somehow proudly) proclaims that Wales is dependent on our friends from over Offa’s Dyke they have very little else to offer.
Whether one is to agree with their statement that Wales is dependent on England or not, the laws of mature debate dictate that they should at least elaborate. Otherwise they can (and should) be countered with being asked whether they have evidence to back up their claim or did they simply hear if from an Anglo-British nationalist/unionist mouthpiece and therefore it must be true?

When one reads the facts it becomes excitingly clear that Wales isn’t quite as dependent on England as it may seem.
It’s true that any nation with a population the size of England’s will pay more in, for example, taxes than a nation with a smaller population but, when compared proportionately, I reckon we pay about the same. Obviously.

To be honest, England depends on Wales for so much – not least energy and resources.
As an independent nation, not only will Wales harness 100% of the natural resources it produces – making us surely the first nation in the world to be totally suffient on renewable energy alone (much to the certain annoyance of profit-driven, global energy corporations) – but we will have enough energy to export to whomever we choose…. for a small profit, of course. Much like various Swiss cantons do when providing water to other Swiss regions, in fact.
I’m confident that Wales’ prices for our excess resources would not bankrupt England either. We’re not bitter.
Wouldn’t that be far better than giving, for example, our water away for free…. only for it to be then sold back to Welsh border areas at the profits of the water companies who got it for free (from Wales) in the first place?
It’s complete madness!

Add that to the vast savings Wales will make on not paying for England’s projects like HS2 (or whatever they fancy doing in a few years), Trident and Buckingham Palace’s multiple and multi-million-pound rennovations.
Starting to sound more viable by the minute, huh?

We are not dependent.

History proves over and over that invasive nations only allow complete restoration of power to their plundered colonies when they’ve suffiently stripped said plundered colonies of the resources they require. In England’s case, to be fair to them, at least they leave the sport of cricket in return for gold, jewels, man-power and tea.
Look it up!

Now is the time to ensure that we can enjoy the beauties of sovereignty before we’re turned into simply a retirement home and a place to rehabilitate those who England decided to incarcerate whilst our potential resource-rich economy is bankrupted.

We are not dependent.

And when we are not dependent, that can only mean one thing.

Orbituary from a passer-by

My first ever football match was at the Cae Ras. Wrecsam 2-2 Stockport County.I didn’t really care much for the football. My five-year-old self just wanted to get down on the pitch and kick a ball around with the players.

With my dad a season ticket holder at Liverpool since before I was born, my early teen years were spent in Anfield’s Centenary Stand. 4 rows up. Right on the halfway line. All my mates were proper jealous.

As I reached my late teens (and ever since), my loyalties returned to the Cae Ras.
I remember paying £7 for a space at the back of the Kop with a few lads from Llai I knew from school. I never had enough money for a Wrecsam shirt so I’d always wear my red Wales shirt – the Kappa-huggy one.
Still got that, actually!

Having witnessed Liverpool’s Kop in full voice I was never intimidated by the atmosphere on the Kop of the Cae Ras, but I always remember wondering how less people (compared to the 10,000-or-so in Anfield) could make just as much noise.
One guy, perched in between the hustle and bustle of us all, was pointed out to me by a friend. He was the ring-leader of all our songs. He never stopped singing. “They call him ‘Jacko’,” my friends would say.

Sometimes I’d see his face elsewhere. Once in the programme of the 2005 LDV Vans Trophy final. A few more times in other matchday programmes. Then more recently in person, week-in week-out, in the Eric Roberts end.
Before kick off, my mate and I would always play a little game of ‘ffeindio Jacko’ (find Jacko) on matchday. 9 times out of 10 we’d hear him before we spotted him jostled amongst the 1864 faithful.

I only ever spoke to him once. In fact, it was due to his welcoming and open nature that he spoke to me. Just a simple ‘alright?’ at an away game down in Jester. I felt like I’d spoken to a celebrity.
To be fair, I had.

Sometimes a club owes its very ethos to its fans – and, in honesty, that’s the case at Wrecsam. But if we’re all blunt and truthful, there’ll only ever be one guy who will always be ‘Mr Wrecsam.’

Cwsg mewn hedd, Jacko.

God’s own

Growing up, religion was as important to me as politics, responsibilities and mortgages…. id est, not at all.
I was never baptised and never set foot in a church until my nain passed away.

The only ways religion touched my life were the songs we sang in primary school assemblies and the prayers we said before dinner time – looking back now (as a teacher myself), I understand these instances only to be ones encouraged by our teachers because they were professionally obliged to do so.

As I grew into my teens, religion became only something I understood to be the main reason behind the world’s disagreements. The only time I ever even slightly considered religion to be of use was one lad’s determination in high school that being spotted by teachers saying the Lord’s Prayer during assembly meant you didn’t get shouted at as much in lessons. Quite the claim.

My disassociation with religion continued, and continues, to this day.
It’s in no way that I’m against faith – I know that many find solace and harmony in it – but I guess I’m yet to appreciate that side of it. My sceptical mind ensures that I probably never will. Perhaps that’s sad in itself, but I can at least say I find faith and solitude via other means.

Occasionally I pity religion and its attempts to encourage others to it – particularly Christianity (seeing as that’s the primary faith of those around whom I live) – even though I’m sure all of the world’s religions and faiths struggle to find new blood to carry their flame into the uncertain future.
I pity it because, for me at least, its followers are fighting a losing battle.
It’s definitely no secret that more and more people are either turning their backs on religion completely or are simply too busy to find a place for it in their fast-paced, modern lives.

It must be hard to remain relevant in this modern world.
Often I see small chapels and churches offering youth-friendly gatherings to encourage youngsters to faith. On many occasions, I find myself wanting to place my slowly-shaking head in my hands at the sight of their various events and advertisements; all the time realising that their recruitment techniques have reduced themselves to mere pittiful gimmicary.
Stop trying so hard!

But that’s the Cache-22. In order to remain relevant, Christianity (and many religions) must fight in any way it can to maintain its purpose. No longer is the promise of ‘heaven’ and the warning of ‘hell’ enough to turn non-believers into regular church-goers.
I suppose science and its numerous reality-based answers to questions previously too perilous to even consider has deemed faith nothing more than irrelevent. It’s sad, certainly, but it’s true.

As a teacher of a language creeping up to two millennia in age, I am constantly aching to share with students why I know the Welsh language is relevant.
However, over my past seven years as a teacher, it often, surprisingly, pains me to hear students say that they enjoy my lessons.
It pains me to think that, despite the fact they’re leaving my classroom with more knowledge of our national language then when they walked in, they might primarily enjoy my gimmicy PowerPoint presentations and quirky, yet often cringy, vocab’ videos.
Learning Welsh might, for them, simply be a ‘side effect’ of a fun way to spend an hour behind a desk.

As much as wonderful examination results year on year fill me with genuine pride in each and every student, I worry as to whether they’re minds, loaded with vocabulary and phrases as ammunition, are brave enough to use their acquired skills in the real world.
I think of students past and remind myself of their abilities in lessons – knowing their standard of Welsh is far better than mine when I was at their age.
I went on to learn Welsh (something I will always consider my greatest achievement)…. will they bridge the gap between having the knowledge and having the guts to step into daily-use fluency?

Do students yearn for trips to Glan-llyn to practise their Welsh or to get away from their parents for a weekend and spend time with their mates?
Do adults scramble to find local Welsh classes to arm themselves with the tools to ask for a pint at their local watering hole in Welsh or simply to jazz up their CVs?

It’s no secret that those attempting to promote and encourage the Welsh language work tirelessly to get our nation conversing in Welsh. There is certainly no shortage of events all over this land offering opportunities to experience the language.
But what if we’re trying too hard? What if our attempts to encourage Wales’ native tongue are the final gasps of a community spirit that has no place in an evolving world? What place, if any, will Welsh have in years to come?

When I see chapels opening their doors to young people with the hope of turning their heads to faith, deep down even my science-ridden outlook tells me those attending are there only to take selfies with friends and organise their weekend outing to McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Now and again I consider how the rôle of education in incorporating religion into children’s everyday lives has had only a detrimental effect (simply by, perhaps, trying too hard) in its attempts to embed itself into commonplace.
I worry that, as a schooled subject rather than a ‘natural’ and common phenomenon, Welsh has become much like religion; on a one-way road to oblivion.

My mind forces me to question whether my life-choice of replacing the word ‘thanks’ with ‘diolch’ (even when conversing otherwise wholly in English) has, in the eyes of those to whom I say it, reduced itself to a gimmic – much like people of faith wishing God’s blessing upon non-believers.

And there again appears our Cache-22. Should we, as those ‘burderned’ with encouraging the use of Welsh, not sink to levels of gimmicary then perhaps our language might not endure. Yet at the same time were we not to at least make an attempt to remain relevant through gimmicary, would our goal of a bilingual populous become merely an unachievable dream?

Like science has indirectly turned the masses away from religion with its wondrous explanation of our cosmos and everything in it, so has the English language with all its free-flowing ease and global appeal turned the tides of speech against Welsh.

So, as to stand in solidarity with others in their struggle to endure the tests of a modern world, I shall lower my guard against religion and faith and bid all the blessing of whosoever your god(s) may be and pray to them that Welsh will, forever and ever, be a part of the fabric of our divine land.

Wales is, after all, God’s own country and the Welsh language itself ‘iaith y nefoedd’ (the language of the heavens).

Football for what?

It’s been around a year since I managed to read Orwell’s 1984 from cover to cover in 3 sittings over a half term weekend.
Drawing parallels between the unconscious ‘proles’ and the regulated ‘middle classes’ with today’s populous was both enlightening and, frankly, down-right scary.

But never have I learnt so much from a novel and never have I employed so much wisdom from a piece of ‘fiction’.
Despite the masses of wise and often life-changing words I took from Orwell’s masterpiece, it was one particular paragraph that grabbed my attention for, perhaps, the wrong reasons.

When speaking about the control of the masses under the vicious totalitarian regime, the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, realises and understands the techniques employed in ensuring zero opposition to the government;

“Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult….”

Football‘? What?

But, to be completely honest, I suppose I get it.

Standing empty-headed on a cold terrace in the depths of winter willing on 11 humans to kick a ball more favourably than another bunch of 11 humans while masses of people in Wales and beyond suffer at the hands of the often-unopposed ruling elites hell-bent on world domination at the expense of millions….

Shouldn’t we be battering down the doors of the Welsh Parliament aching for an independent nation – run for the people of Wales solely by those who call this nation their home – rather than for a football game that will win us nothing but an extra reason for another pint of Wrecsam Lager if the game’s result is a win?

Well, for me at least…. NO!

Since reading 1984 I have been wholeheartedly in awe of Orwell’s supreme wisdom and incredible postmodern foresight – so to discover, on one point at least, that I disagreed with him was somewhat of a shock to me at first.

But I truly believe that, when supported in the correct way(s), the collective force that is football can drive wondrous things. Yes, we’ll always have the idiots who either wish to scrap to prove their broken masculinity or shout homophobic/racist profanities in an attempt simply to mask their own inadequacies, but football can be (and often is) so much more than that. So much better than that.

It’s about infiltration. It’s about aiming forces in the correct direction(s) and encouraging discussion and, ultimately, change.

Where else can one find a collective of 5,000 people once every fortnight who join together for a common goal?
Football is there for the taking. We can use this fantastic force to awaken the masses – if not to get behind socialist and republican causes, then simply to open eyes and minds to at least entertain and discuss socialist and republican causes.

To quote Orwell once more;

Until they [the ordinary folk] become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

Up the town.
I’r gad.

Will you marry me?

Amongst football-loving friends, I often get asked which team I followed first – partially down to the fact I seem to follow teams from anywhere and everywhere.

The obvious answer is Wales but I guess that goes without saying. I was brought up watching the Netherlands smashing us 7-1 and Italy putting 4 past us in the San Siro. But Wales is my country…. through thick and thin, as they say.

With regards to club sides, most people are surprised when I tell them my first team was not Wrecsam. As much as my birth-town's team are nowadays my first choice, they weren't the first side to whom I was drawn.
Others guess at Liverpool and, as much as the reds (and the city itself) have a special place in my heart, it wasn't them either.

****

I remember my dad taking me to the Prince of Wales pub in Leeswood many, many years ago. I must have been around 8 or 9.
It was there one of my dad's blue-nosed, toffee-munching, Evertonian friends would hand me little badges with Everton on (plainly to annoy my dad) every time I saw him. One day, however, he handed me a green and white pin badge that, alas, I can no longer locate. The team, the mighty Celtic, however, stayed in my heart. And there they've stayed ever since.

To be honest, I guess my love affair with the Bhoys from Glasgow town started that day – pretty much before I even knew what football was. I mean, I wore the shirts and kicked my tatty footballs around the garden but ask me to sit through 90 minutes and I'd have told you where to go. I was at an age where climbing trees and eating worms beat watching 22 men kick a ball around.

****

A little like me supporting a football club before I truly understood the game itself, I've always known who my best men would be even before I met the girl I'm marrying. There were only ever two boys I was going to ask.

To say too much now might ruin a segment of my groom's speech so, to keep it short, I simply hope that when I ask them later today, they'll agree to my request.

It's the only bloody decision I'm allowed to make at this wedding so they best not let me down.

Love you, gentlemen.

PS: Hope you like your cufflinks.

PPS: DON'T F*CKING LOSE THEM!

My response to language bigots – 95% Diplomatic / 5% F*ck it

After two amazingly successful street stalls in Colwyn Bay and Wrecsam supporting Welsh independence over the last few weeks (and all the wonderful, often surprisingly positive responses we received from both events), I told myself to refuse to be disheartened by two conversations in particular…. one at each event.

Either way, they (unfortunately) got to me enough to make me open up my blogging app on my phone and write about them.

On each occasion, despite beginning both conversations with 'Have you thought about an independent Wales?,' the response turned immediately to the Welsh language.
Perhaps coincidentally, both men were keen to share that they each knew Welsh speakers and had younger members of their respective families learning/speaking Welsh – therefore making them well placed to launch an unnecessary attack on a medium of conversation, it would appear….

Much like Sports Direct's latest call for English-only conversation in their shops and the prospect of a giant ring in Fflint glorifying Edward I's subjugation of Wales in the 13th century, I and many others have found ourselves once again defending our language, culture and heritage.

With blood rushing to my head and the prospect of winning the 'Welsh Bigot Bingo' in one single chat, I managed to notice a similarity between the two men wishing only to put down people's choice of language.
When I tried to diplomatically put across my point, I was told I wasn't allowing them to finish. Although it was completely fine for them to interrupt me when I found a chance to speak. It seems obvious that those who oppose the Welsh language simply wish to get off their chest all of their vacuous drivel at once and then walk away unopposed.

One particular point amused me.
The man in Wrecsam said he had decided to learn French instead of Welsh due to it being more useful. Despite this his response to 'ooh, parlez vous français?' was 'what?'
He even told me Latin was more useful than Welsh. Apparently he didn't understand me saying 'salve, ut vales?' either.

One may liken this whole experience to playing chess with a pigeon…. No matter how good your debate, these people are always going to end up defecating on the board and strutting around like they won!

To them, with my diplomacy and grace failing me, I say just because your archaic views of a monolingual, global empire being run by quislings in London dictate that you must despise those who do not choose to use the language of England's unelected head of state is no reason to go out of your way to moan about it.

Hearing a different language, and, sometimes being confronted with them, is bloody scary. Since attempting to learn multiple languages, each and every time I've felt uncomfortable. Being faced with someone saying words where I'm only able to comprehend some is daunting. I get it.
Asking for a hotel in Toulouse, chatting about Duolingo in Irish, enquiring about someone's proficiency in Breton…. only to be confronted with a wall of language that my abilities don't yet reach.

Essentially, it boils down to one's comfort zone. It's as simple as that.
Some people thrive on being out of their comfort zone. To those who do, I have nothing but commendation and envy for I am one who rather dislikes being out of my own comfort zone.
But, for me at least, life is about taking risks and pushing yourself you try something new – as scary as it may be. To open new doors to see what's on the other side.

If you don't support the Welsh language, why not get out of your comfort zone of monolingualism and GIVE IT A TRY. Get out of your comfort zone of excreting stupid reasons why you personally dislike that language and LISTEN to why people feel so strongly about it.
I'm not particularly a huge fan of religion but I don't round moaning to those who find solace and peace in their chosen religion. Do you know why? Because they find solace and peace in their chosen religion. It's theirs and it's as simple as that.

Seriously, either get back under your rock from whence you came or f*cking grow a pair of balls (or the female equivalent – even though it's only ever fat, old men who I ever notice moaning about Welsh) and pick up a book or spend 20 minutes on Wikipædia.

No I should NOT dwell on these two isolated incidents – and indeed they certainly do NOT take anything away from the welcoming responses we received regarding Welsh independence at the two events – but I suppose it was nice to get my thoughts across on language bigots without being interrupted.
And, with a bit of luck, those two men might read this article and think twice about attacking language. Provided they can actually read, of course!

Lions.

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.

Here’s why:

    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.