‘Absolutely deflated’: Wales fans winded by heavy World Cup blow | Wales

tHey, they consider themselves very strong in the town of Treorchy in the South Wales valleys, but there were tears in the eyes of the adult men and women as their country’s first World Cup adventure in 64 years was dealt a heavy blow.

Graham Jones, 76, struggled to find the words to describe his mood after watching the match against Iran at the Lion pub. His best attempt was “completely shrunken… devastating”.

Jones has followed the Wales team since he was thirteen years old and traveled to Sweden in 1958 to witness their last finalists. “That was great,” he said. But he agreed on Friday that the Iranians, who scored twice in overtime, were the best. “We put them off work as best we could but we didn’t finish the job.”

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He thrilled at the thought of at least one more game – against England on Tuesday. “If we can beat them,” he said, “it would be one of the best feelings in the world.”

Despite the result, people were reluctant to criticize their team. “I still love them,” said Josie Eddy, 26. “The red wall all the way.” She said she would help organize the England match show at the Treorchy Boys and Girls Club next week. “Fingers crossed we can still do this.”

frustration among fans
Frustration among the crowd as Wales fell late to defeat on Friday. Photo: Athena Pictures

Her friend Melanie Green, 49, said she was devastated by the defeat. With a wistful smile, she said she planned to try to overcome the disappointment by finalizing arrangements for Treorchy’s Christmas show on Saturday. “Busy times – you’ll be distracting,” she said.

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Treorchy (Treorci in Welsh) and the wider Rhondda Cynon Taf region may still be more associated with rugby in sports fiction, but football has become important here too. In the village of Binter, just across the street, there is a blue plaque marking the house where Jimmy Murphy, who captained Wales to the 1958 World Cup, lived.

Four miles from Taylorstown, the village where current Wales manager Rob Page grew up. Page announced the Welsh team for Qatar at the Miners Welfare Hall in Taylorstown. Recalling his early playing days, Page told The Guardian, “You’ll see the wind and rain go down the valley and you’re frozen. You’ll be ankle-deep in the mud. Great memories. They shape you.”

A fan watching the match
A fan watching the match against Iran. Photo: Athena Pictures

Treorchy certainly threw himself behind the Wales team on Friday, with the High Street glowing red. Welsh clothing and gift shop opened early selling last minute clothes and flags. “You can’t watch the game without a bucket hat. It’s the law,” said one customer, Geoff Edwards. Even the skeleton at the chiropractor wore a bucket hat and a Wales shirt.

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At the all-encompassing Treorchy, receptionist Christine Howells resplendent in her bucket hat perched behind a desk flanked by Welsh flags. She had three screens in front of her to watch the game. “Just in case one or two breakdowns,” she said. The school’s welfare dogs, Cocker spaniels Boo and Lottie, wore Welsh bands.

The students watched the match in the main hall, the gymnasium and the gymnasium. The headteacher, Jenny Ford, said she was delighted the Welsh Government had given schools the option to watch the match. “It’s been a long time since Wales made it to the finals, so why not?”

The pupils of Treorchy Comprehensive School enjoy the atmosphere
The pupils of Treorchy Comprehensive School enjoy the atmosphere. Photo: Athena Pictures

The school is big on promoting “cynefin”. There is no direct English equivalent, but it is described in the Welsh school curriculum as “a place where we feel we belong, where the people and landscape around us are familiar, and the sights and sounds reassuringly recognizable.” “Being together at the game is part of that feeling,” said Ford.

Teachers discussed with students the human rights controversies that have taken place around the tournament in Qatar, including the wearing of the OneLove armband. “We challenged our students to think about what Gareth Bale should have done,” said Ford. “There were some excellent discussions.” Some students decided not to watch the game due to human rights issues. “It’s their right, too,” Ford said.

Students joined in on Yma o Hyd (We’re Still Here), the defiant folk song in Welsh that the band has adopted and has become a fan favourite, before running for the national anthem. And although the result was against Wales, the students would not forget the day in a hurry.

“The atmosphere and the emotion was great,” said 14-year-old Sirene. Luca, 15, added: “It was a pleasure to watch the match at our school. It’s a good opportunity for everyone to bond.”

“Watching football brings everyone together,” said Kayan, also 15.

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