Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No roads lead to Cardiff

The prospect of a dull, uninspiring, lethargic but most importantly pointless football match attracts the self-righteous fan like a magnet. And tonight, whilst the majority of my compatriots will be settled comfortably in front the High Def broadcast of the game, I will be at the Millennium Stadium, wishing I was somewhere else.

It's ironic. When I lived in Cardiff, a short walk from the Stadium, I missed several Wales home games. But now that I live 170 miles away, it seems much more important that I make the effort.

That 170 miles mainly traverses the A470. It is a legendary trek that makes transport experts of anybody who lives West of Colwyn Bay. We know every passing place, we know that there is no hope if you are stuck behind a lorry between Rhayader and Caersws. We know there are traffic cameras in Penrhyndeudraeth and Ganllwyd. We know that the people of Clatter do not believe in Christmas decorations. The names of Llanbrynmair, Carno and Talerddig vist us in our never ending nightmare along the most beautiful, but most soul-crushing, and dispiriting journey that constitutes a primary route. This is the main road from the capital to our main port at Holyhead.

We share this narrow, precarious road with tractors, lorries and people who are simply popping out to buy a paper. As they pull out from their farm gate, they are joining traffic that has been stuck behind a horse box for 35 miles. There is steam coming out of our ears. Where do all these people go in their horse boxes ? Don't horses have legs in Mid Wales ?

I should take the train of course. In theory, it's the best option. Tickets are as cheap as £20, and you can reach Cardiff in under 4 hours. But the reality is that there are no trains back from Cardiff after the match. The cheap tickets are sold out about 3 months in advance, and if I were to book today it could cost me nearly £100. But the main problem with the train is the certainty that you would have to share a carriage with half a dozen cider heads from Mochdre. On a 4 hour trip, that's a frightening prospect.

When I lived in Cardiff, I would listen in awe to the travel plans of our friends from the North. In those days, the Bala lads were certainly committed. After a 4 hour coach drive to Cardiff in midweek, 50 of them would have a good drink before the game, and then would stay in Cardiff until 2am, before leaving for the trip home. My old mate Berwyn the Butcher would get back at 6am, put his apron on, and start chopping up pigs. Dedicated.

On Saturday, a quick scan of the Mochyn Du spotted 25 people from my village. All had travelled down separately that morning, and some were driving straight back after the game. One percent of the village was in that pub - 5 hours and 170 miles away. If one per cent of Wales bothered to watch international football, then the Mill Stad would need 250,000 seats.

I think that it's an incredible statistic and one which proves beyond doubt that Felinheli is the centre of Welsh football. The FAW should relocate, and there should be a new stadium at the Faenol.

The awe is gone now that I am one of the distant travellers. It is no hardship to travel to a World-class stadium in your Capital City. I'm looking forward to it. I'll see the old familiar faces from Cardiff, London, Ponty, and Holyhead and we'll all have that weary "what are we doing here?" look on our faces.

You can get 9/2 on a Cyprus win tonight. I hope that I'm right in declining those odds. I have laid Wales again, as I can see a recuperative 0-0 draw, but I don't expect Cyprus to beat us at home. That would be ridiculous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a cider head and I come from Mochdre!