How an Englishman’s love of Welsh football changed his life forever
I’ve lived in Llanfair Caereinion for nearly 19 years. I don’t ever see myself heading ‘home’, which is just outside of South West London.
It was a move that happened from meeting a girl – isn’t that always the way? She’s also from the South East of England, but she’d been coming to this part of Mid Wales for years before we met.
One trip to Mid Wales was enough to suggest we move.
I always had the view that English people were disliked by everyone in Wales, and yet that one weekend changed my view in the blink of an eye.
Six months after our first visit, we had moved to a new town and community. This is where my love of local grassroots football really took off.
Love of Wales
I could have always jumped on a train from Welshpool to follow Shrewsbury or I could have driven to Wrexham to support my nearest professional Welsh side, or even take the short drive to watch TNS in the then League of Wales, who were at the time playing in Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, but that was always a non starter for me. Who names a club after their own company anyway.
In the end, I opted for the 300 metre walk up the hill to the Mount Field ground to watch Llanfair Utd (who play in the Ardal League North East) and so started a connection to my local club that now spans just over 18 years.
I’ve gone from just turning up to watch, to being a pitch marker, to being a linesman for the reserves for four seasons. I would get more grief from my own team than the other team.
I was also the fine collector at the club (what a way to make yourself popular!) I have been on the committee for 15 years and at one time I was Vice Chairman but I have now found the job I love, being on the gate.
You get to chat to the away fans, ground hoppers and see the regular home fans. But the real highlight for me is the social side. After a game on a Saturday, a group of us head to the local and discuss the game. I’ve missed these Saturdays over the last 18 months and I hope to go back to the post match analysis soon.
My time following and helping out with my local club has opened new friendships, and has made me feel part of the wider community in Llanfair. Whilst I am most likely preaching to the converted, I would urge people to get involved in local clubs. For me, it’s given me something that I could never have imagined after the first time I saw Llanfair Utd play.
I am now confused. I know I’ll never be Welsh. My birthplace and accent will show where I’m from, but yet I love watching Wales play with my mates in the pub.
During the Euros I found myself getting annoyed with how much TV coverage England was getting, especially when Wales’ games were on. Then, in the last couple of years I have found myself being more open and supportive of Welsh independence, a thing I never thought I would have said 19 years ago. I have kids born in Wales, and they are super proud of being Welsh, and that makes me proud of them.
So my dilemma is this, can you be Anglo-Welsh? Because I have found since moving here and joining in, I have become part of a community that I don’t think I would have found just outside of London.
Whenever I go ‘home’ to see friends and family, I find myself sticking up for Wales, and arguing against the normal stereotypical jokes about sheep, rugby and rain, and now independence, which until I moved I’m ashamed to say I probably made the same stupid boneheaded remarks.
I hope now that I’ve seen the light, people who read this will forgive me.
This article first appeared in the latest issue of football culture fanzine Alternative Wales.
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