While Wales performance at the football world cup has been less than stunning, the presence of Wales on the World Stage has been exceptional. As soon as Wales qualified our flags started appearing all around Doha, and people who did not know Wales even existed were asking why we had the best flag in the tournament. (Check out #cymruflagwatch on Twitter for some examples).
Although my cleaner did ask me why my flag had a dinosaur on it…
Everywhere you went in Qatar during the tournament there seemed to be more Welsh fans than anyone else (with the possible exception of Argentina). There were not that many but we were highly visible with our red shirts and bucket hats worn at all times. A Dutch colleague commented that the Welsh were very much like the Dutch – who never miss an opportunity to dress up in orange. Meanwhile a Canadian friend asked me if our bucket hats were based on traditional hats worn by miners…
The Welsh Government used every opportunity to promote Wales – displaying a massive bucket hat in one of the fan parks and organizing a series of events to showcase Welsh produce including a large reception party at the British Embassy catered with Welsh Lamb, Snowdonia Cheese and Penderyn Whsky. Musical entertainment was provided by the Urdd Choir and Dafydd Iwan, and I was surprised to hear Dafydd singing Yma O Hyd complete with the ‘Fagi a’i chriw’ line at the heart of the British establishment – I can only assume that nobody had given the British Ambassador a translation.
To be fair to the Ambassador he said that when the Welsh Government had requested the event. He had asked the UK Government and English FA if they wanted to do something similar and they were not interested – he said that the Welsh Government had been far more proactive than the UK and wryly commented that maybe it was because we had a stable government. The Welsh Conservatives predictably criticized Mark Drakeford’s travel costs, but it looked like money well spent to me. Perhaps they should question the travel costs of James Cleverly who was also at the event for no apparent reason.
The Urdd Choir were filmed singing at the airport and on the metro and Dafydd Iwan was singing everywhere. At the pre-match party in the Intercontinental City Hotel, Dafydd was moving from bar to bar (there were 1200 fans spread across 4-5 bars) and he sang in each of them in turn – and when the fans sang along to Yma O Hyd it was deafening – I thought the windows were going to blow out!
Wales appeared to have the largest single block of fans at any of the matches. There were clearly more fans of other countries in attendance, but they were usually scattered around the stadiums and dressed in a variety of colours. But our fans were in one single block and uniformly dressed – very difficult to miss. And as expected we won the battle of the anthems – the look on the American fans faces was priceless after they had half-heartedly stumbled through their own anthem and then were shocked to hear the Red Wall in full voice.
For too long, Wales has been in England’s shadow. Although this was Wales second appearance at the Word Cup, it was the first ever in which we stood under our flag and sang our anthem – in 1958 we were represented by the Union Jack and God Save The Queen. Hopefully this will be Wales last ever appearance in the World Cup as the FAW are moving to rename us officially as Cymru. I hope that we can qualify again for the World Cup in 2026 in USA and this time place Cymru on the world stage (although I expect that BBC commentators will continue to deliberately mispronounce Simroo!).
It would be even better if the commentators could welcome us as the world’s newest independent country.