It’s a video Dilys Rana has watched repeatedly: Welsh actor Michael Sheen, requested by a TV present host to offer a mock pregame speech for the Wales-England World Cup soccer match, delivers a stemwinder for the ages.
“When the English come knocking on our door, let’s give ‘em some sugar, boys!” he bellows because the stage music swells. “Let’s give ‘em some Welsh sugar! They’ve at all times mentioned we’re too small, we’re too sluggish, we’re too weak, too filled with concern. However yma o hyd, you sons of pace, as they fall round us — we’re nonetheless right here!”
Even within the suburbs of Chicago, removed from her homeland of Wales, Rana was swept away.
“It was actually superior,” she mentioned. “Actually, actually good.”
Wales is making its first World Cup look in 64 years, and on Monday would be the first opponent for the U.S. males’s nationwide staff. Chicago’s small Welsh group will collect for watch events, although the actual motion will come eight days later, when Wales and England face off within the desert warmth of Qatar.
“If the Welsh ever beat the English in any sporting contest, it’s a enormous nationwide victory,” mentioned College of Maine historian Anne Kelly Knowles, who has written about Welsh migration to Chicago. “It is among the greatest issues that may occur.”
Wales is a nation of three million that occupies the identical island as England. Although it’s a part of the UK, it has had prickly relations with its neighbor for tons of of years: Knowles mentioned one divisive issue within the nineteenth century was Parliament’s insistence that the Welsh converse English as a substitute of their native tongue, although the hunt for higher wages was the primary purpose many emigrated to the U.S.
The Chicago space’s Welsh inhabitants peaked across the flip of the twentieth century and led to the event of Welsh chapels, newspapers and social and fraternal organizations, Knowles wrote in “The Encyclopedia of Chicago.” As with many immigrant communities, their ethnic identification ebbed as new generations assimilated into the American mainstream, however it hasn’t light fully.
Rana, who grew up in Wales, is president of the Welsh Cambrian Society of Chicago, a company that’s practically 170 years outdated. Members get collectively for varied occasions, and only in the near past embellished a tree for the Museum of Science and Trade’s “Christmas Across the World” exhibit.
However there’s nothing like an enormous sporting occasion to ignite nationwide satisfaction, and that’s significantly true for Wales, which is within the midst of a drive to interrupt from the UK.
The nationwide soccer staff, referred to as the Dragons, has been an enormous a part of that motion. When the squad beat Ukraine in June to qualify for its long-awaited World Cup, the gang at Cardiff Metropolis Stadium broke into “Yma o Hyd” — translated as “Nonetheless Right here” — a defiant Welsh-language folks music from the Eighties that has surged in reputation.
The nation’s soccer affiliation has additionally given discover that after the World Cup it plans to designate the staff’s identify as Cymru, pronounced “COME-ree,” because the nation is named in Welsh.
Rana mentioned Wales and its expatriates have significantly loved the success of “Welcome to Wrexham,” a TV documentary that exhibits the exploits of a small Welsh soccer membership purchased by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
“They obtained an award from the Welsh authorities for elevating the profile of Wales,” she mentioned. “We have now a really sturdy identification and anybody who champions our causes is a champion in our eyes.”
The Dragons are led by Gareth Bale, a ahead recognized for his distinctive man bun and as soon as fearsome pace. After years of success and controversy in Europe, he got here to the U.S. this yr and promptly helped Los Angeles FC win a Main League Soccer title with a last-minute goal.
However on the age of 33, Bale is gone his finest days. His switch market worth — an estimate of how a lot a participant would fetch if he had been up on the market — is barely $2 million.
All the Wales squad is valued at simply $165 million, which ranks them twenty third among the many 32 World Cup groups. Their outdated rival England ranks first, at $1.3 billion.
Video games aren’t gained on spreadsheets, nevertheless, and a few consultants predict Wales will make it out of its four-team group, which additionally contains England, the U.S. and Iran, to succeed in the event’s knockout stage.
As for successful the complete factor? Bookies have them as a 200-1 lengthy shot.
Lengthy odds apart, David Parry of the Chicago Tafia Welsh Society — Tafia is a tongue-in-cheek mixture of “Taff,” a derogatory nickname for a Welsh particular person, and “Mafia,” in recognition of Al Capone’s Welsh aide-de-camp Murray the Hump — mentioned World Cup fever has reached a boil, each amongst expats like him and other people again dwelling.
Unsurprisingly, anticipation for the England sport is particularly eager.
“Whoever wins, they’ll be insufferable for a decade,” he mentioned.
However win or lose, Parry mentioned the event represents an opportunity for the remainder of the world to find out about Wales, and for individuals who have ventured removed from the Land of Castles to unify in nationwide satisfaction.
“If we simply final these three (group stage) video games, it’ll be price it,” he mentioned. “We’ll simply take no matter we will at this level. It’s past thrilling.”