For the sake of world football, England had better beat Wales on Thursday. Such is the Welsh delirium at actually attending an international tournament, the unparalleled levels of WPS (Welsh Pride Smugness) has lead them to actually believe in their own marketing gimmick of “Together Stronger”. Americans may take home the patriotism prize at every World Cup, but Wales are certainly launching a strong bid to be the ‘Americans of Euro 2016’.
‘Rich with history and full of raw emotion’ read the opening gambit of a broadsheet newspaper the day after Wales’ win over Slovakia – the tripe on social media was even worse. As every bitter English fan can vouch, the sheer volume of closet Welsh fans that smear banal patriotism upon newsfeeds after an international sporting victory is both laughable and infuriating.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of patriotism, but when you go to such lengths to shove it in the face of literally everybody else – it’s enough to make even the most die-hard, face-painted American fan facepalm with embarrassment… it’s just not how it’s done.
For the 90 minutes I spent watching Wales beat Slovakia, even the most cynical English fans around me were smiling as Bale’s freekick bounced into the middle of the goal (questionable goalkeeping). The rousing moment in the second half, where Wales began to falter and were resurged by the crowds rendition of Land of my Fathers undoubtedly helped to push Coleman’s men across the line.
The whole game felt like watching a child who, with a considerable amount of support, had triumphed in riding his bike without stabilisers for the first time. Where the narrative goes sour however, is that said child should not then try to pull off an aerial 360 with his hands off the handlebars…
But that’s exactly what Gareth Bale seems to be doing. The rest of Europe, even the English, were quite content to let Wales have their moment – by all means enjoy your first victory at a European Championship. But not satisfied with that feat alone, Bale just had to overstretch the boundaries:
“No other country would think of doing things like that to lift the team,
“We were under the cosh a bit towards the end, but our fans pulled us through.”
And it’s not the first time that Gareth Bale has done his best impression of Donald Trump, having previously aimed criticism at England ahead of the opening fixture:
“They big themselves up before they’ve done anything, so we’re going to go there and we believe we can beat them.
“If you’re Welsh, look at the rugby, we feel more pride and passion than anyone else.
“It’s one of those things. It’s difficult to explain but we feel that pride and passion. Look at the national anthem, everyone sings, the whole stadium. I don’t think any other nation would do that. Being Welsh just brings it out of you.”
If nationalist garbage is what being Welsh brings out of you, Gareth Bale, then you’re welcome to it. I’m just waiting for
Donald’s Bale’s post-match comments after Wales emerge from the group stages – no doubt something along the vein of: ‘We’re going to make Wales great again!’
American support at World Cups is something world football has grown fond of, because their fanatical support doesn’t have a superiority complex – just genuine, warm-hearted patriotism. They know full-well they’re not going to win it, but that won’t stop them chanting ‘U-S-A’ until the very last minute.
The difference with Wales is their aura of unentitled smugness. As with rugby, they’re not content enough with providing vocal support for their team, everyone else has to know why Welsh support is so much better than theirs – it’s incredibly grating.
An English victory over the Welsh has never been so important, both on and off the pitch. Not only do England need to outclass the Wales line-up, but the English fans need to make Bale eat his words in the stands… or else risk a lifetime exposed to WPS.