They can obviously do without me……Like I care!

23 02 2014

For fans of Welsh football the 23rd February (today) had been alive with promise for months because this was the date of the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifying groups. Hopes of exotic travel and adding new countries to lists lent a Christmas Day feel to this morning.

At around about lunchtime UEFA Wales had been placed in a group with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra. It’s a draw that looks decent from two perspectives.

From the playing side the draw could have been a lot worse, although it must be said that Bosnia and Belgium will both present very difficult opposition, and Cyprus was hardly a picnic a few years ago.  Under UEFA’s new rules the top two qualify and the third team entering the play-offs so this group looks like Wales’ best chance of qualifying for ages………Cue the costly own goal versus Andorra that leads to the play-off defeat versus Lithuania.

From the fans’ perspective, certainly for me, the group offers some interesting trips. I’ve had a hankering for Bosnia ever since I saw the contrast of Alen’s quiet dignity with the bluster of the Serbian Nutcase in this edition of Frontline Football;

Belgium? I love Belgium, I’d love to see the Atomium again. I’ve always had a hankering to go to Andorra, and Cyprus offers an interesting mix of suntan and proximity to a disputed border.

Israel is the problem for obvious reasons so I’ll give that trip a swerve. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be doing the things associated with Wales away trips –  having a laugh, getting lost on public transport, public singing – knowing that Palestinians are suffering only a short distance away, and I’m sure the Israeli police would take a dim view of flag-based protest statements.

I joked that Israel away would be the only game scheduled for a Saturday when the exact fixture dates and kick off times were announced at 3:30. Sadly I was nearly right;

9th September 2014 – Tuesday –  7:45pm – Andorra v Wales
10th October 2014 – Friday –  7:45pm – Wales v Bosnia-Herzegovina
13th October 2014 –  Monday – 7.45pm – Wales v Cyprus
16th November 2014 – Sunday –  5pm – Belgium v Wales
28th March 2015 – Saturday –  7:45pm –  Israel v Wales
12th June 2015 – Friday – 7.45pm  – Wales v Belgium
3rd September 2015 – Thursday – 7:45pm – Cyprus v Wales
6th  September 2015 – Sunday – 5pm – Wales v Israel
10th October 2015 – Saturday – 7:45pm – Bosnia-Herzegovina v Wales
13th October  2015 – Tuesday – 7:45pm – Wales v Andorra

This a brilliant illustration of UEFA’s new approach to qualifiers; they really do offer a week of football. The only day not represented in Wales’ fixtures is the traditional midweek matchday of Wednesday.

Hang on, a 5pm kick off on a Sunday? Twice? Well that puts paid to my trip to Belgium. An international on a Monday evening? Another home game out of the window. I can only go to international matches on Saturdays so it’s only Israel away and Bosnia away for me. I won’t entertain Israel and there’s a wait of over a year and nine months for Bosnia. Bollocks, this schedule means that it’s going to be at least another couple of years before I’ll be able to possibly watch Wales play.

I could get angry but there’s no point, in fact I’m almost past caring. Since they started to allow Friday internationals I’ve only seen one qualifying match. By the end of this qualifying round in November 2015 I will have only watched one home qualifier in 6 and a half years. I haven’t stopped supporting Wales, I just haven’t been able to go, ho hum.

I could get angry that I haven’t been able to watch any of our home matches, or most of our aways, on TV since 2004 . I could get angry that FAW sold their broadcast rights to Murdoch but I’m used to not seeing Wales on TV, the anger has long since dissipated.

I have no divine right to watch Wales play. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t miss a single home match in Cardiff for 6 years (between 2001 and 2007), or that I once did an Easter Wales v Austria double header (Cardiff Sat, Vienna Weds), or that I once made sure that I finished work early in Ellesmere Port to get down to Cardiff in time for a friendly with Paraguay with 10,000 others in the Millenium Stadium, or that I once travelled for virtually 36 hours in order to watch a Trinidad and Tobago in Austria and visit a Salzburg youth hostel for an hour and a half. None of this matters, the world doesn’t revolve around me. I’m not solipsistic.

The FAW don’t care that I can’t go and I don’t really care that I’ll be missing matches, there are no losers in this situation. I’d obviously like to go, of course – I’ve got some great memories of watching Wales matches – but not being able to watch Wales? C’est la vie. If submitting to Murdoch’s agenda is the trade off for having the ability to watch Wales is I’ll get by without Wales.

I’ll still have my memories.

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