- This weekend as proved tha footie is the number one game in Wales.
   - Ow cun yew say tha? Didn we beat Italy........ an we could still win the Championship. An what about Becky James, eh? Ow about cyclin as the top sport?
   - Nah, it's gotta be footie. Swonzee win the League Cup, Cardiff go eight points clear, Wrexham get t Wembley an Newport are pushin f'r promotion.
   - Yeah, but the Welsh national team ave got a massive followin.....they represent the whool nation.
   - Remind me ow they got on against all them Southern Emisphere teams. Anyway, club rugby's doin opeless. All the regions ave failed miserably this season.
   - So, shull we agree on cyclin then?
   - Orright, but it's not the greatest spectator sport is it?.........Round an round an round!

   Football is now our national sport! The demeaning three feathers, with their monarchist 'I Serve' motto, has been replaced by the dragon.....swan, bluebird etc.
   Laid low with a bout of flu, I watched the Wales v. Italy game and, although the second half was marginally more open, I found it unremittingly dire.
   Football's all about possession (just look at Swansea against Bradford), while rugby, on the evidence of this game, is about kicking the ball into the hands of the opposition to gain territorial advantage.
   Italy never seemed interested in scoring tries (isn't that the game's object?) and players of both sides kept dropping the ball. Jonathan Davies blamed it on the conditions, as if Wales weren't used to playing in the rain.
   Points came courtesy of mistakes and there was only one moment of attacking skill, when Cuthbert scored a try.
   Rugby seems increasingly to depend on sheer muscle and power (just look at George North), whereas the great footballers are pure skill and hard work. Messi is hardly a muscle machine, is he?
   The Welsh national rugby team have a huge following, which the football team can only envy. Yet a large number of fans are more interested in 'the drinking art' than sport itself (as Robert Minhinnick once argued in an excellent essay).
   Football is followed throughout Cymru, while rugby is a game predominantly confined to the south and  south-west.
   The enormous achievements of both Swansea and Cardiff have captured the passion of the sporting public.
   There is simply no comparison between rugby at regional level - where a 10,000 crowd is seen as admirable - and football at club level, where both of our major teams play to over 23,000 on a regular basis.
   We have a world class player in Gareth Bale, who is now up there close behind Messi and Ronaldo, and Swansea's pan-European team have often been dubbed as Wales's Barcelona.
   Movement, passing and a strong squad ethic have become a really vital feature of Cardiff's success as well. In the last few years, they have reached Wembley three times : F.A.Cup Final, Play-off Final and League Cup Final last season, though they haven't won a trophy as Swansea have now.
    To cap it all, both Wrexham and Newport are doing exceptionally well. The former reached the final of the F.A.Trophy and are top of the Conference, while Newport are a couple of points behind and pressing for promotion.
   I recently read an article in the Guardian's Sport supplement about the demise of Welsh club rugby. It focused on Bridgend, but also mourned the loss of such an historic club as Pontypool. The situation was depicted as desperate and club officials castigated the WRU for their callous behaviour.
   This is a stark contrast to the impact of both Cardiff and Swansea this season. Swans' fans represent the hwyl of the country when they sing 'Hymns and Arias' (even adopting a rugby song) and Cardiff have 'Men of Harlech', though I much prefer 'I'll Be There' with its strong roots in the club's past.
   Despite having players from many nations, there are still key Welsh elements, with Ashley Williams and Ben Davies for Swansea and the inspirational Craig Bellamy for Cardiff.
   Of course I'm biased. Of course I've had this argument before.
   Yet now, of all times, it seems fitting to state my case : our national sport is the 'wendy-ball' and not the 'egg chase'!



                                      FOOTBALL, A POEM

Football, a poem moving :
ode to the glorious game.

Each player a stanza ;
the manager's imagination.

Every fan a reader,
analyzing or taken by emotion.

(The chairman sees it differently,
believes it's all accountancy.)

Each word a pass, movement a line :
the dramatic symbol of a win.





 


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