This week after the Sunday football was over I got asked on Facebook if I was bitter about Cardiff City beating Manchester City on Sunday. I’d put up a picture on Facebook of some sheep running through a town centre and the caption was along the lines of it being a celebration of the win in Cardiff. The photo came from Twitter and was re-tweeted by the ex-Welsh rugby international cousin of a friend, he thought it was funny as did quite a few of my friends which shows that not all Welsh people cry “Racism” when jokes are made about Wales or say “Well they wouldn’t say it about black people would they?” when people like Anne Robinson make tongue in cheek comments about the Welsh. An oft-repeated belief that isn’t actually true is that Americans don’t get irony, the truth of the matter is that some do and some don’t and it’s the same kind of Welsh people who don’t get irony whenever anybody says anything ironic or humorously critical about Wales that go running to the police claiming that a crime has been committed when what they really should be doing is learning the definition of the word racism and whilst they’re at it maybe xenophobia too.
I’ve supported Swansea City since the 1977/78 season, my Dad’s family were from Swansea and having spent a great deal of their lives away from the city his parents – my Gran and Grandpa – retired to a flat down in Langland Bay where we would go and visit them every other week for a roast dinner and a trip to St Helen’s to watch Swansea RFC. My logic for supporting the Swans was this, up until that point in my life I had supported Liverpool but decided that if I supported Swansea RFC then it made total sense to me to support Swansea City AFC and that’s what I did. Little did I know that this momentous decision would cause me many issues throughout my childhood right up until the age of 16 when certain people who tried to make my life a misery at school left the place to face their challenges in the real world. It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered that a friend from those days also supported the Swans but kept quiet during our time in school for fear of what would happen to him should it get out. It was only when the Swans got promoted to the Premiership that he put a Swans badge on Facebook profile and I asked him “Er…do you support the Swans then?” that the whole story came out 21 years after we had left school.
Oh yeah, what I haven’t explained is that from the age of 11 I went to school in Cardiff – I was a Swansea City supporter in a Cardiff secondary school.
I would get threatened in school by various people – Geography classes last thing on a Wednesday were always a particular joy and I had to hang around after them asking pointless questions of my teacher in the hope that the two boys threatening me would be lured away by the need for a cigarette behind the sports hall. I’d then check that the coast was clear before making a run for it and escaping home. These same boys and their older brothers were also in the Scout troop that my parents sent me to when we moved to Cardiff and one lunchtime in school they all tried to attack me at the bottom of the school field and having escaped from that they let me know that after the next troop meeting my time would come and that there would be no escape then. My Mum got me into another Scout troop in the middle of Pontcanna Fields instead which even though it was in the middle of an – at that time – unlit field and twice the distance from our house she thought would be safer for me and she was right. Those walks back across the pitch black field to the safety of the bottom of Cathedral Road in the middle of winter were scary but brilliant fun. I loved my time in Scouts there even if the hut and everything inside it burnt down in mysterious circumstances a short time later.
Previously to this I had lived in the (up) market town of Cowbridge and the older boys in Cowbridge Comprehensive School who lived in my street took great joy in repeatedly kicking my football into the river behind our street – worry not it always got caught up in a wire barrier a little bit downstream – I got told that if I went up to the top of our cul de sac that I would get beaten up as Swansea City fans were not allowed up there and so developed my football skills in the lost art of playing footie on a slope. There was one boy in particular called oh I don’t know – let’s say Alan who even if he was out on a date, with his parents or on bob a job week duty would duly shout and hurl abuse at me in the street and tell me what he was going to do to me if and when he got hold of me. At the time my friends in Y Bont Faen Primary School knew that I and several others of us supported the Swans and it really wasn’t an issue which makes the irony all the greater that it was someone from Y Bont Faen who was the person on Facebook this week asking me if I was bitter that Cardiff City had beaten Manchester City.
Anyway the answer is genuinely no, I’m not bitter about Cardiff winning. I had some crappy times in my childhood related to my support of Swansea City, times when I was genuinely scared and upset at what happened to me and what was being threatened. On events such as geography field trips to Porthcawl, or a week at Storey Arms I had a sense of fear hanging over me and it was only due to decent people in my year speaking up for me and looking out for me that I was able to get through these times but I never once stopped supporting the Swans nor did I feel that I needed to retaliate and nor did I hate Cardiff City. My real friends – they knew that I supported the Swans and couldn’t care less that I did nor me that they supported the Red Bluebirds.
Of course I hope that the Swans win both the derby matches this year, of course I hope that we do better than them in the Premiership but do I want Cardiff City to crash and burn and get relegated in their first season in what our American cousins call the EPL?
I don’t think I do…