Underdog Euphoria

If you don’t like football or understand tribalism, look away now.

Last night Wales erupted onto the soccer scene by beating Belgium to earn a place in the semi-finals of Euro 2016. It has been at least five years  of hard work for manager and team to resurrect Welsh football. What that meant to the nation, and one Anglo Celt in particular, was a huge sense of pride in the achievement of our men against the best that Europe has to offer.

My Englishness has always wavered, and not just when English teams have lost, but because of my lack of kindred spirit. A haughty reserve and xenophobia are stereotypes of Englishness. Football releases the passion on the terraces and and on the sidelines where parents relive their youth. This is where you will find English fans giving vent to their joy and disappointment.

The insurance choice for my nationality is Welsh, thanks to my Welsh speaking mother, who couldn’t escape from the parochialism of South Wales quick enough.

Unfortunately I have only a few words and phrases in Welsh. Twll din pob sais …was a phrase that stayed in the memory long after my mother regretted teaching it to my brother and I. Other memories of slow time  in my grandmother’s house as a child  listening to lively conversation in a foreign language brought home the different culture my mother had embraced. Her Englishness is solid in its adoption,and her accent is Home Counties posh. But scratch the surface, and her Welshness is there to be found and admired for the same kindness and resilience shown by my grandmother, and a moral rectitude that keeps things tidy.

I have drifted away from the underdog title of this piece of nonsense, I know, but I am like a puppy chasing its tail when I try to unravel my sense of nationality.


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