God is one, but three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Eduardo Galeano wrote in his book “An Equally Incomprehensible Mystery” Football, shadow and light (1995), In football, Great Britain is one, but it is four: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Indeed, the Welsh, who make up a little-known nation of three million on the UK side, were represented by their national team at the Qatar World Cup last autumn. Better yet, Wales, unlike Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco, Croatia and Serbia, not to mention Qatar itself (a sovereign state only since 1971), did not have to invade its own national independence to have the right to align its choice in Doha air-conditioned oven.
To answer Galeano’s semi-mystical questioning about the existence of the Sacred Quartet, we must begin by pointing out that in the kingdom of Charles III everything is archaic, not to mention that everything collapses under the weight of tradition. Sport is no exception.
Recently, after waking up in a hotel in the seaside resort of Aberystwyth, with the Irish Sea on the doorstep, I had lunch reading the sports section of The Daily Telegraph whose first four pages were about cricket, an esoteric game in my eyes, even with three cups of coffee in my body, while the BBC showered me with classical music and spread toast with marmalade to the sound of Pomp and conditions, the unofficial anthem of the British monarchy. A change of scenery is guaranteed.
The fine sun, the blue sky, the dazzling light pouring on Cardigan Bay, everything conspired against the television that day, a great Saturday of sports, I had learned, Zabite in moderation. First, the 142nd FA Cup final, the FA Cup, at Wembley Stadium, the oldest football competition in the world and opponents for the first time, in a tense atmosphere, two Manchester clubs: City vs. united.
The Scottish Cup completing the dual program is hardly less advanced, with its one hundred and thirty-eighth editions. As for the Epsom Derby, the horse race that inaugurated the era of sofa managers and local bettors, it has been in contention since… 1780. The officials there all wear the top hat and have the air of a swarm of crows.
America’s oldest sports leagues – the World Series and the Gray Cup – date back to the turn of the 20th century. Around the same time, in France, FIFA was created: the International Federation of Football Associations. And since, between the English and the French, we are not accustomed to swimming in universal harmony, the necessary merger between the English Federation (FA) founded in 1863 and the new Parisian creation led to a confrontation. Sorry for the déjà vu, but the English won.
Thus, the treacherous Albion, which had reached the end of the central spirit of the Jacobin fatherland, imposed on international football the four national associations of which the Football Association consisted.
Note that Galeano isn’t much to complain about. With a population equivalent to that of Wales, his country, Uruguay, remains the youngest country to have won the World Cup, twice rather than once. In 1958, the Red Dragons (the Welsh emblem) beat mighty Hungary in the round of 16 before losing to future world champions Brazil. Their best result in the Qatari tournament was more modest: a draw with the United States. Another moment of glory: reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2016.
But results on the field – a record overall of 14 wins, 68 defeats and 21 draws against England – is one thing, national pride another. Ironically, the team was born into a historical situation in which the left-wing writer Galeano saw the imperial balance of power as becoming the main banner of Welsh identity abroad. For fifteen or twenty years, a Welsh woman explained to me, the national football team had played an increasing part in representing the little nation which bore the Gaelic name of Chimro.
By the way, what did I know about Cymru before going there? Apart from the fact that the Welsh send a football team to the World Cup – but not to the Olympics – absolutely nothing. Having only eyes and ears to Scotland’s unfortunate quest for independence, I did not realize that a bilingual show was flourishing 200 kilometers from London, that Welsh was a living language and that there was, outside of Shakespeare’s language, Welsh literature. Even more damning proof of my ignorance: the only Welsh writer I can name is Dylan Thomas, who died in 1953.
Then I met one, also a poet and he was very lively. The first thing he said to me was: language is political. We were created to understand each other.
As I passed London, near Hyde Park, I thought of the reasons I fell in love with (or admired) the English: 1. Their friendliness towards passers-by, such perfect civility; 2. Churchill. 3. THE BEST SECRET SERVICES – That was before the Israeli student outdid the master. In a low voice I lowered the cheer composed by Real Madrid supporters and taken by Welsh supporters, in honor of Gareth Bale, the Cymru Player of the Year who in 2012 claimed back pain for refusing to play for Britain at the London Olympics: ” Gareth Bale lives! He said his back is bad, damn the union jack! »
Novelist, freelance writer, and sports columnist extraordinaire, Louis Hamlin is the author of dozens of books.
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