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It’s the end of the World Cup as we know it (and I feel fine)

30 Nov 2022 5 minute read
Owain Fôn Williams’ stunning World Cup painting

David Owens

After all the decades of waiting, after all the near misses and perpetual heartache, it was over.

In a blink of an eye, through 64 years of waiting, it came and went.

The smallest nation to qualify, on the biggest stage of them all. That moment we’d all wished for, ended before it had begun.

And do you know what? I’m okay about it. I’m feeling fine.

It’s ironic that all there was before this World Cup was six decades of pain and agony for Wales. And then the tournament started.

If we’re being honest, the football has been pretty tortuous – almost as traumatising as that half Wales/half England shirt a reporter wore on TV yesterday.

Unfortunately, Gareth Bale – long Wales’ Superman, had found his kryptonite in Qatar and with Ramsey and Allen a shadow of their former selves this was always going to be a struggle.

You can be proud of our journey to the World Cup and hugely disappointed at the way we’ve played. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

As the dust settles and players and fans pack their bags to head home, of course there will be forensic analysis of what we could have done better – key amongst this post-mortem Wales’ boss Robert Page’s decision-making and tactical tinkering will be under close scrutiny.

However, we need to look at the bigger picture, in the wider context of a plan and a vision for Welsh football. For someone who never thought they would see their country at an international tournament, qualifying for successive Euros and a World Cup has been akin to waking up in dreamland.

We are now a squad defined by its present not its past. Our story is not of near misses, of heartache and regrets. As a nation we have been redefined, reborn and reawakened.

Wales’ Gareth Bale (left) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring their side’s first goal of the game from the penalty spot during the FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al-Rayyan. Picture by Nick Potts / PA Wire

On the pitch there might be a grand sense of underachievement, off it there’s an enormous sense of putting ourselves on the global map.

So the stay was short, but the impact we made will reverberate for sometime.

‘For Wales see England’ can be consigned to the dustbin of history. The world now knows we are a different country.

Little Cymru, with the biggest of hearts, had made a giant stride onto the world stage, where we showcased our language, our culture and the passion of our small but perfectly formed nation.

That the inclusivity of our footballing community, our Rainbow Wall, was displayed in a country rightly pilloried for its appalling human rights record, treatment of the LGBT+ community and migrant workers made it all the more poignant.

“Whatever the score – Wales will win”, said Dafydd Iwan out in Doha, in a rare moment when he wasn’t being plied with free drinks and being asked to sing Yma o Hyd for the 456th time..

The veteran songwriter and folk hero, acted as unofficial ambassador for Wales – part adored peace envoy, part redoubtable troubadour. Feted everywhere he went like an octogenarian rock star, he will surely return from Doha with a blood count that is 80% alcohol, 20% hwyl.

But then this was Cymru on tour. The Red Wall partying hard, Welsh diplomats making friends wherever they went, while gamefully attempting to avoid third degree burns in the desert sun.

Those fans from other nations who saw the Welsh singing on the metro, performing at impromptu concerts at giant bucket hats and belting out monumental versions of the most monumental of anthems, must have rightly assumed we communicated via the medium of song.

To them we no doubt appeared a curious band of mystical minstrels. A mythical entity born real in front of their eyes. Those Welsh, they’re built differently – they most probably surmised.

If nothing else our appearance at the World Cup reinforced the fact the bucket hat and red football shirt has replaced the stove hat and shawl as traditional Welsh costume.

This tournament has also prompted a cultural renaissance that has seen a nation ablaze with poetry, song, art and literature. Our mural count alone must have increased by 50% since kick-off in Qatar.

The Yma o Hyd mural on the Fat Board in Wrexham

Who we are, what we are and our place in the world. It’s something we’ve always battled against when still tied to Westminster, in the shadow of big brother next door.

Now we’ve found our voice, our confidence and our identity, this is only the beginning.

This squad are still a band of brothers, a group of never say Dai’s, who will continue to propel Cymru to great things. Of that I have no doubt.

Just as David Brooks joining up with the Wales squad added context to World Cup exit heartbreak, proving some things are bigger and more important, this tournament has been a galvanizing force for our nation that has transcended football. It’s a clear demonstration of what we can achieve when we unite as one.

Whatever the future holds the world now knows our name.

As the anthem rang out from the Red Wall and the squad applauded at the end of last night’s game, it underlined the strength of pride in cultural identity. A bond that refuses to be broken. Supporters, team, nation as one. Together Stronger.

But more importantly for Wales, for Cymru, in the words of Yma o Hyd…

‘Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth, Ry’n ni yma o hyd!’

In spite of everyone and everything, We’re still here!

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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago

Yes the Welsh nation is very much ‘still here’ David (and we would be even if we hadnt reached qatar incidentally) but we also want to be in Germany and the USA in 2024 and 2026. To that end we have to accept that the great players who have carried us to 3 major tournaments in recent years wont be playing such a significant part in the next campaigns. Thankfully however we have a crop of young players still in their early 20s who now have the experience of being involved in 2 major international tournaments – invaluable experience which… Read more »

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
1 year ago

Now the world knows who and where we are – independence will be easier. We are definitely, Still Here !

1 year ago

As do I, but the Footballers should be embarrassed about how they Performed when it truly mattered most. When the entire world were watching! And Most of the world will be a laughing at us, especially the US.

1 year ago

Well done!

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
1 year ago

Very well put.

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