Black and White

2 04 2009
Wales 0 Finland 2
World Cup 2010 Qualifier
28/3/09

This is what’s it’s all about; 2 train carriages full of Wales supporters on their way to Cardiff every couple of months.  The heady anticipation, the overpriced food, the ceremonial drinking of the mid morning six-pack whilst wearing a rugby shirt. This is living alright. We disembarked at approximately 11:20 and calmly purchased our match tickets. We calmly walked to a pub but found the Zero Degrees was shut, the City Arms was shut, Dempsey’s was shut, The Goat Major was shut. The shops were open. I swore that somebody had told me there was something happening in Cardiff city centre today but I must have misheard.

Dafydd, Jonathan and I eventually found a hostelry and it was nice. Apparently it used to be a favourite of the Free Wales Army but I didn’t feel any more “patriotic” or right wing or more likely to firebomb a Caravan. It’s funny how from one generation to the next a place can lose one significance and gain another, the circle of life one might say. We had a few more in the pubs we couldn’t get in earlier, a few Finns provided unintelligible company.

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The tickets were in a favourable position, potentially 50 empty seats of leg room each!! Although we had to stay on the right the side of the steps again, quite obviously. There were a few Finns, including some from the “East Midlands Massive”. The Jet Set decided that today would be our Flag Day and what a display it made, the stadia of Italy have nothing on it.

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Anyway the game kicked off and it was ok; Wales looked like they had a clue about winning. The ball didn’t make it towards the Finnish goal very often, however. There was nice passing and a few crosses but there was also a bit of Bellamy moaning and thigh-slapping in that inimitable style. Why does he always seem to want to prostrate himself before the deity of the ref? He offers up his hands and screws up his face, it must be fairly uncomfortable for someone as close to him as the ref. Well “he cares” I suppose. The Finns offered little in the first half, guess who scored first? Were we out of the World Cup?

The second half was frustrating, the parts that Wales got right in the first half were absent in the second and so we looked like scoring even less. Then Aaron Ramsey came on and hope re-entered my mind. He gave the ball away a couple of times, never mind  we’d still do it! He failed to control a couple, never mind we’d still do it, he’ll do a turn or something in a minute and smash the ball in – just like against England – you’ll see. The time ebbed away, never mind it only takes a minute to score a goal! The hope part of my brain was dominant because I’d failed to add in the following; we needed to win and didn’t look like doing it; we’d replaced Carl Fletcher with Carl Robinson in order to keep things the same; we were getting worse as the game progressed. Then Finland scored again and that was that, as some dick once said.

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The scrum at the station wasn’t bad and we actually boarded the correct train. Now your team is out, what could you do to cheer yourself up? Well I’d say you could do anything; think happy thoughts (e.g. picturing John Terry’s finely chiseled face covered in rivulets of tears whilst he watches his prized, but illegally parked, Bentley being towed away, picturing Chris Moyles being cast into exile in Mongolia, imagining that Jeremy Clarkson has been sent to prison for political incorrectness etc), you could read War and Peace, you could amaze all with you showbiz anecdotes…. What won’t cheer you up in any way whatever is hearing a drunken imbecile alternate between blowing a plastic horn and telling everyone he’d been so drunk he’d missed the second half so he’d had to sleep on Cardiff station. After the tenth time, I could take him off exactly. We had peace for about 20 minutes until he remembered his phone, same again for an hour.

Then we had what will become known in years to come as the “Chinese Debate” from the same group;  “Are we getting one?”, “What shall we have?”, “When should we order it? If we order it now (by Shrewsbury) it’ll be cold by the time we get home (Prestatyn!!)”, “What are you having?” It was just like Frost/Nixon.

Just as you thought you were safe, at Chester on come the ordinary civilians talking too loudly. “I don’t see the point in learning Welsh myself” opined the student. Then, just after that I found Dafydd’s seat. We were having a rather nice conversation and a few Chester fans from Caernarfon intervened, Chester fans form Caernarfon!?!?!, it was all getting too weird. I left the party train at the Junction. Like the man said; “Watching Wales, it’s living alright!!”

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Wales 0 Germany 2
World Cup 2010 Qualifier
1/4/09

I arrived late and had just taken my stool when Ballack cracked it home. Apart from that the first half was fairly good from a Welsh point of view, we had the ball and worked it well, we broke, we passed well and could quite easily argue that we were unlucky to be behind. We should have been awarded a penalty, it was clear as the hand in front of  your face (if that’s where you put your hands). Then the throw in that led to Ballack’s goal should have been our throw in, we should have been winning 1-0!

So we should be winning and we’re playing well, what happens next? Wales score an own goal for the Germans, it’s goodnight and thank you so early in the second half. By this time I’d stopped paying attention properly and began to wonder how many England “fans” over there at the other screen were actually football fans.

Were they there because that’s what bloke do when there footy. There seemed to be an awful lot that didn’t appear to mind missing most of the action. Then, after closer inspection, I began to wonder how many of the England  “fans” over there were actually English anyway. I recognised several who were “Welsh” when it suited them, one of whom went to a Welsh medium secondary school.

Fair play to ’em, in their semi-sober states they’ve shown up the inherent problem in the concept of Nationality. They’ve taken on board the ideas of Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm; that Nations and Nationalities are invented concepts that didn’t , in fact couldn’t, exist before the 18th century. By their simple actions they’ve also shown that we don’t readily fit neatly into little compartments. They’ve shown that we define the world on our terms, the world doesn’t define us. It’s either all this or they’re glory-hunting bastards.

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