After the chaos of Brexit and divisive tone of much of the reaction to the vote, there’s nothing like sport to bring people back together.
And what a rollercoaster of a week it’s been. As a remain supporter and proud Welshman, I was disappointed that so many people in Wales voted to leave the EU.
The prevailing, and sometimes lazy, narrative that has emerged since is one of a nation divided.
Then Friday night happened…
After some dark times for Wales over 30 years (remember Bobby Gould?), Friday was dreamland. I’ve been in a daze ever since the game. Judging by some of the conversations I’ve had over the weekend, I’m not alone.
The build up was amazing and the video featuring Rhys Ifans got a strong reaction online.
Then there was that Cruyff turn.
And by the time Robbie Savage was losing it after Sam Vokes’ goal towards the end, I was with him.
Pride, passion, togetherness
Gary Lineker and Newsnight saying ‘nos da’ to viewers on Friday night was a nod to the fact that this was Wales’ night. We have every reason to be proud of their achievement.
Above all, the way the team and Wales fans appear to have conducted themselves at the tournament have won us friends and admirers at a time when we’ve badly needed it.
The team has appeared united, committed and relishing the experience, which are surely pre-requisites to a successful campaign. Gareth Bale, the team’s superstar and world’s most expensive footballer, and the manager Chris Coleman have shown impressive leadership qualities when speaking to the nation. It’s been a joy to behold and I don’t want it to end.
Two powerful words
As someone who’s also supported England at many tournaments, the contrast in moods towards both teams is stark. Wales have the supporters with them at every step. The players engage on social media and seem at one with the fans at games. It is wonderfully apt therefore that the two words that have come to embody the journey of the Welsh team over the last year – Together. Stronger – have such resonance. Yes, it’s a marketing slogan; but it’s born of something genuine. Now the team is flying, it’s become part of the narrative.
It’s miles away from the Mars-inspired #believe campaign featuring Harry Kane and co on the battlefield en route to conquering nearby hordes (like Vikings, perhaps?). Much like the players’ performance at the Euros, the campaign won’t be remembered for long.
This tournament has been amazing, and we should make the most of it because they don’t come around too often.
Maybe we can all learn from the experience too, about the importance of teamwork, simplicity, consistency and good leadership. In doing so, we may be better able to cope with the realities unfolding around us.
Before then, it’s all about Portugal on Wednesday.