I received an e-mail from the FAW the other week. I was informed that I could buy some tickets for what turned out to be Monday night’s smashing victory over Moldova. It was very nice of them to make such an offer but there was absolutely no way that I could have gone.
I communicated via social media that I’d be willing able to go if they fulfilled either of my easily met conditions; 1) Move the match to Saturday 3rd September 2) Provide me with a helicopter. Needless to say they refused to meet either of either of my easily met conditions, I repeat EASILY MET, and I meekly returned to peaking through the gaps in the fence.
It was all very different in June. I was nowhere near France yet I somehow managed to feel part of the European Championships, or at least feel that they had something to do with me.
I felt part of it because I went with the flow; I had reassured myself that it would not have been possible to go any matches. I still felt part even after I found out that some work colleagues had been able to go to matches on day trips. There was no hint of burning jealousy behind my placid exterior. I should play poker with Victoria Coren-Mitchell.
I have previously intimated that circumstance has furnished me with a jaded view of that modern football. Seeing “WALES” written in the tournament graphics was a cynicism decontamination shower. I started to feel quite giddy before the match.
I couldn’t say what was more exciting; seeing players representing Wales walk out at a major tournament, experiencing the panning shot at anthem time or the fact I was able to watch my own national team play without paying Murdoch for the privilege.
The match started and I was reassuringly reacquainted my national team almost immediately; an opposition player dribbled through the defence with ease and only a panicked goaline clearance prevented a goal.
Sources close to me had told me that Wales had played well enough to qualify but I wasn’t really aware of how that felt. The rest of the first half showed me what they had meant. Wales settled quickly and everything looked mostly comfortable with pleasing pockets of positivity.
Then, as if by magic Gareth Bale scored with a fab free kick. Somehow Wales were denied a penalty just before half time.
A Slovak equaliser lent a familiar feel to the start of the second half. Then Wales started to feel pressure, Slovak passes were slick and a Welsh post was hit. Thankfully in this brave new world of Welsh football Wales looked good on the break.
One of those breaks led to Hal Robson Kanu’s scuffed winner. An involuntary drop of moisture escaped my tear ducts as my long departed Dad came to mind. Wales had now won a match in a tournament!
Aside from Gareth Bale’s second blockbuster free kick of the tournament the England match was almost as expected. From virtually the start of the match you knew that it wasn’t going to go Wales’ way but that didn’t stop me hoping for the point that Wales needed for second round qualification. When England scored their inevitable injury time winner all you could do was say “typical bloody Wales” and get on with worrying about the Russia match.
The Russia match was, until the QF, my favourite ever Welsh match. I worried about the result until Ramsey deftly teased the ball over the moving keeper after a few minutes. A few minutes later my favourite moment as a Welsh football fan happened; Neil Taylor scored Wales’ second goal. My favourite moment as a Welsh football fan until that night in Lille of course.
This felt very strange. Wales were leading 2-0 and making fluid attack after fluid attack. I couldn’t supress the little doubts until Gareth Bale scored a third. Amazingly Wales not only won 3-0, they also finished top of the group thanks to England’s much vaunted travails.
I looked at the post match graphics in bewilderment but it was all true. Wales had not only won a few matches, they’d qualified for the next round AND finished top of the group. When you’ve seen Wales lose 5-1 to Slovakia in a half empty Millennium Stadium it’s difficult to get your head around something like that, even when you’ve seen everything happen on television.
The convoluted draw process meant waiting a couple of days to find out that our next opponents would be Northern Ireland. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We could have played stronger sides in the second round, and we’d beaten stronger sides in the previous fortnight, and Wales had played very well but this was Wales, and “should” is the worst word that people attach to football. Phrases like “Wales should win”, “Bale should score” and “Blah blah blah blah blah blah.” all come with an undercurrent of “I’m angry. LOOK AT ME!”
Within a day or so of finding out Norn Iron would be our opponents the pre-EU referendum hysteria caused my attention to drift. I pictured the discomforting black void after a leave victory. Calm objections to hysterical rhetoric became scaremongering and patiently delivered evidence against easily refutable untruths became the wittering of experts from ivory towers.
The thirty six hours before the Northern Ireland match were not a happy experience, disturbing thoughts about the future burrowed into my brain like the malignant parasites from Star Trek 2.
I may not agree with the EU’s laissez-faire capitalist outlook but I believe in the idea of Europe. I couldn’t stop thinking black thoughts, I needed purging.……As the pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa…..
The smug triumphalism of Farage’s victory speech played on loop.
Why had people voted Leave?
Within hours of victory the winning side had disowned their rhetoric and winning voters had disowned their vote.
Groovy! People didn’t understand the concept of casting a vote!
It wasn’t so much that we had lost but who we’d lost out to; snide snake oil salesmen.
Years of their drip drip drip sales patter had constructed a demand for putrid messages of social division.
Why did so many people fall for their snake oil?
The EU, EEC and ECSC has taken a continent divided by war, destruction and a burgeoning Cold War and created seventy years of peace and understanding.
People can sample other cultures easily and former enemies have been able to deal with problems collectively.
The “out of touch” EU has regularly played social expenditure surrogate for our austerity led government.
All it needs is reforming in a more social direction.
If the EU had been in control of our democracy would they have allowed such a reckless referendum to take place?
Now look at us.
We’ve become a petty little inward looking place.
Welcome to the United Kingdon of NIMBYism
The place of “Yeah but what about “THEM”?”
The place where people complain about the state of their neighbour’s gardens in perpetuity.
To the Norn Iron match!
The first half was basically forty five minutes of tiptoeing around the possibility of victory. My second half developed an air of nervous tension until a sanguine air descended. I realised that whatever the result Wales had progressed out of the group stage and that was fine. Then McAuley scored the own goal and Wales were in the quarter final versus Belgium.
About five minutes after the final whistle the glow of European victory subsided as the fog of European defeat returned…….As the pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa…..
How could people vote for such a depressing view of Britain?
How could people fall for the bullshit red bus, Boris and Farage?
There was absolutely no demand for this sort of referendum three years ago.
We appeared to have irrevocably altered the future on an incoherent whim and now it’s all “Get Over It” as if the UK has become The Jeremy Kyle Show.
If people voted to “set Britain free of foreign meddlers” how did they think that would happen?
History is a chain reaction of unforeseen repercussions. The British governments of 1913 and 1938 didn’t know that destructive wars were round the corner and The Wall St. crash was a nasty surprise.
If people voted against “out of touch bureaucrats and politicians?” explain our fetid government.
If people were “voted against a capitalist EU” did they think that a socialist revolution is round the corner?
As for the people that voted “to take Britain back” I wouldn’t want to live next door to them.
Brexit is “a marvellous opportunity for Britain” but what does that actually mean?
I’m sure that 18th Century India and the Scramble for Africa were viewed as marvellous opportunities by some at the time.
Oh we can now trade with other countries in other places!
Oh aye, we’ll have to spend years trying to recreate the kind of stable situation we already had.
…and spend years trying to persuade large scale employers not to leave.
“You’re talking down Britain” they say but we know that Britain no longer rules the waves.
We know that we’re merely a collection of smallish islands in north western Europe.
We know a close relationship with our closest neighbours is probably the most sensible approach to life.
We know that the cheerleaders of greater trading opportunities are probably the same sort of politicians that stood idly by as our coal and steel industries died due to acute market forces?
“But we’re the World’s 4th/ 5th/ 6th biggest economy”….I’m sorry but what does that have to do with me?
Where’s our share?
Oh, it seems they’ve traded our shares at the opportune moment in a Bear Market. (An extra 1/4p per share no less.)
“Hope” is it? Wilful disregard more like.
They say “working class revolt”, if it was anything it was lazy wilful ignorance rather than a protest, lest we forget the Leave voters in areas reliant upon EU funding.
I grew up in a working class household that was perfectly aware of the value of political ideas. It is not unrealistic to expect people to take an interest in politics of their own free will.
Our bloody government deserves contempt because it exists beneath contempt but this “protest” was utterly pointless; a Tory government of the worst kind was still in power the day after the referendum.
All the leave voters have done is make a dismal situation even worse.
We’ve got an awful government that now contains ministers emboldened by the atmosphere generated by right wing noise generators.
The noise generators don’t care about working class communities.
Will a leave vote actually solve any real substantive political problems?
Will it make Britain a fairer place?
Would the EU have prevented a prospective socialist government taking power?
Would a leave victory convince our government to overturn the post 1979 monetarist consensus?
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
The real problem is the unfettered market economy.
People are not really scared of immigrants, they are worried about their jobs and the uncertain future created by laissez-faire capitalism.
The only crumb of comfort was Wales’ prospective quarter final. I tried to forget I supported the same side as Leave voters.
I wanted to believe that Wales would win and I talked myself into the optimistic fug that football fans are wont to surround themselves with. Why do we rely on 11 strangers to fulfil our hopes while 11 skillful strangers tried to dash them and dame fortune daintily places obstacles in the way?
Wales started in a settled fashion but the air had an ominous tang. Belgium were slick. They applied pressure. Wales cleared off the line. Then Belgium scored a fantastic long range goal. The inevitability of defeat took the sting out of the incident. Wales were going to lose. It was good while it lasted, but that’s life and all that.
Then Neil Taylor forced a miraculous save from Courtois, then Ashley scored with a header. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I wished to happen, I willed to happen. It happened.
Wales shouldn’t be in with a chance in a European Championship quarter final but there you go, Ashley was steaming towards the Welsh technical area. The replay showed that de Bruyne’s air shot near the post was crucial. By what threads our happiness hangs.
This would already have been the sort of football event that dreams are made of but then second half happened. The first part of the half wasn’t the most comfortable viewing experience as Belgium pushed Wales backwards.
Then a long pass found Ramsey and Ramsey passed the ball to Robson Kanu. Robson Kanu then caused three Belgian players to carry on running in the wrong direction with best Cruyff turn in 42 years. He slightly bent his shot past Courtois.
“Gazed Open Mouthed” is a cliché but if you stood in my living room 2 seconds after Hal scored you would have seen me gazing open mouthed at the moving pictures on my screen. It was sort of moment that Welsh football fans had never experienced. Then Vokes scored a marvellous third with a flicked header. We could experience a realisation in totality………..Wales were on their way to the semi finals.
I couldn’t forget I supported the same side as Leave voters. Ah that bloody referendum……As the pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa…..
The wrong side won because this was the wrong argument at the wrong time.
We’ve let a single vote about an issue that nobody cared about a couple of years ago alter Britain and Europe, possibly irrevocably.
A single vote that took place in a toxic atmosphere of misinformation and hate.
We’ve let cynical misleaders determine our future by influencing the wilfully misled.
If you were to label my reaction as sour grapes you’d be right.
My pursed lips hide the sourest grapes I’ve ever had the displeasure to eat.
My fellow country dwellers have decided to recast their home as an unwelcoming place that shouts about “taking OUR POWER back” from mythical goblins when the real goblins are found in this country.
Letting a cloud of hate and misinformation decide important political decisions is not good enough for a supposedly civilised society.
It’s not pleasant to realise that your home feels less like home.
But there we are.
I’ll always have my Wim Wenders boxsets.
Bollocks to the lot of ya.
A few days later Wales lost to Portugal. This was no surprise, Wales had been shorn of two key performers and didn’t posses the skills required in the knockout stages of international tournaments; simulation and industrial scale time wasting. We may have been disappointed but Wales had reached the semi-final, an outcome that that not even the most drunken optimist would have predicted.
When I look back at the tournament it was a lovely viewing experience. It was great to finally watch a tournament as a fan of a team taking part. It was also liberating to be a proper football fan again, to just sit there engrossed in the flow of fate and accept the outcome without bad grace.
More than anything it was fantastic to actually look forward to watching football again, especially without feeling the need to add a cynical aside on social media. Naturally I avoided any bandwagon activity like the plague. Rhere were no hastily assembled Fan Parks for me!
The tournament reminded about the conundrum at the heart of being a football fan. While the emotions connected football have the power take your mind off reality reality doesn’t relent. The height of the joy experienced at football may easily eclipse the depth of negativity but Brexit Britain remains.
Having said that I’ll always have the memory of the goals against Russia and Belgium and I wasn’t even in the ground! I can only imagine how it felt to be there. Yes Football can be ace sometimes;
Two months later and everything is back to normal after a glorious interlude; no tickets, no chance of watching on TV and the bandwagon has left without me.
I still can’t get my head around the EU referendum verdict. if I were to describe my feelings I’m not “getting on with it” or “making the best of it”. It feels as though I’m surrounded by boorish and obnoxious loudmouths at a tedious party. I’m in the corner quietly pitying their smugness while I luxuriate in a pleasing reverie. At some point I’d raise a glass and cry out;“Enjoy your victory you clowns.” and leave with my head held high. Needless to say, I will have had the last laugh.