Unearthed: Programme from Basque ‘Wonder Team’ match in Wales
In November of last year, Nation.Cymru published the incredible story of Basque Boys AFC, a football team that was formed by the Basque children refugees who were being looked after in Caerleon during the Spanish Civil War.
The heartwarming story, which highlighted Wales’ internationalism, told of the incredible exploits of the refugee boys that culminated in them playing at Ninian Park. The Basque team defeated Moorland Road School, the reigning league and Seagre Cup winners, in front of thousands of onlookers in Cardiff.
The article gained interest in the Basque Country and beyond and has been translated into Spanish. Many of the images from the story will be on exhibition at Athletic Bilbao’s museum in their San Mamés stadium from April 2022.
The Basque Children of ’37 Association recently discovered more Basque Boys history in the archives. A match programme shows that a game took place at Somerton Park, the home of Newport County, on Saturday 6th May 1939.
The match report, under the headline ‘Basque Wonder Team,’ has also been unearthed in the reference library in Newport. The report in the Football Argus (South Wales Argus) shows that the Basque Boys once again triumphed, beating the Newport Schools’ League team 2-0.
The mayor of Newport, John Robert Wardell, met the boys on the pitch prior to kick-off, before local referee Mr A. Bradley blew his whistle.
The Argus reported that: “They had Newport Boys on the defensive from that start. After ten minutes, Luis Acha scored a goal for the Basques. It was clever combination that beat the Newport defence that led to the score.”
Striker Weaver (of St.Woolos) tried his best to pull one back for the boys from Newport, “but the Basque defence was sound.”
The Basques exerted waves of attack at their opposition, eventually adding a second through Federico Espiga “after clever forward play.” However, special praise was reserved for Federico’s brother Emilio (who had scored at Ninian Park), who although “was the smallest of the Basque boys,” was “the idol of the crowd” that day.
A letter on the reverse of the programme explained the background of the children and the difficulties that they faced. Written by the Newport Basque Children’s Committee, the letter appealed for items of clothing, first aid kits, and any school materials that could be used to help with the children’s education and well-being.
The boys often raised money at the games by selling the Cambria House Journal, a magazine that was written and produced by the refugee children who were based at Cambria House, Caerleon.
To see the original Basque Boys story click HERE
For more information see the Basque Children of ‘37 Association website: https://www.basquechildren.org/
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