Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It has to be The Mill Stad

Wales midfielder Jason Koumas says Wednesday's game with San Marino should
be at Cardiff's Ninian Park. The Euro 2008 qualifier will be held at the
72,500 capacity Millennium Stadium in the city, but, as of Monday, just 15,000
tickets had been sold. "It'll be surreal, none of us can understand why the
game isn't at Ninian where the atmosphere would be better and more
said Koumas.

Thank you Jason. Very helpful. I look forward to your post-playing career when you use all that knowledge and experience gained to become a successful football administrator. I would love to hear that phone call to the Millennium Stadium.

"Oh Hello. It's Jase. Yeah that's right mate. Hi. Um....it's about that match we booked next week. I don't know if you saw our game in Dublin, but we were a bit crap. Yeah, I know... Anyway, um, we won't be needing the stadium on Wednesday after all. It's a bit over the top to be honest. What's that? You've printed the tickets? Oh....can't you use them for the Germany game?"

People in Wales have short, but pink-spectacled memories. The Millennium Stadium has to be booked well in advance. Remember when we couldn't get it because there was a Rolling Stones concert or something? This isn't a village hall we are talking about. And the FAW had every right to imagine that we would still be going well at this stage of the competition. It was a bet that didn't seem like a massive gamble at the time.

At a similar stage a few years ago, it was difficult to find a ticket for our home game v Azerbaijan. Even if results had been half decent, we could have expected 30,000 at the match. That's almost twice the attendance we'd have seen at Ninian. Did I say Ninian? Why would we even consider Ninian as the alternative venue for this game? It's about to be knocked down isn't it? Not good enough fo Cardiff, but fine for Wales eh?

Koumas' assertion that Ninian Park would be "more intimidating" is bizarre. History tells us otherwise. Apart from a good atmosphere at our 3-2 win over Belarus, which was wholly created by that pulsating match, the atmosphere at Ninian for Wales games has always compared badly to Wrexham, particularly when the opponents are not major nations.

Swansea have a claim to be rewarded for their ambitious new stadium with a competitive match. It certainly ranks higher than Ninian in the pecking order. I know that they didn't turn out to support the Bulgaria friendly, but let's face it, neither did most of the players. That was an Indian gift to the Jacks.

But the most deserving case has to be Wrexham. Swansea fans can make the Millennium Stadium in less than an hour. It's practically impossible for anybody North of Newtown to make a midweek game without a stopover. Wrexham is still 90 minutes away for a lot of us, but we would welcome the game hungrily. And Wrexham are a club who are desperate for finances. The FAW would be far more magnanimous to take the game up North than to feed the swollen belly of Cardiff City.

The history of Welsh international football at Swansea is inconspicious to say the least. It reached its nadir with the "Swansea Disco" when the lights failed and a 2-2 draw with Iceland ruined our qualification hopes in the 1980s. And more importantly, everyone knows that a biggish game at Swansea would be played out in a nervous atmosphere with a guarantee of crowd disorder at some level. Not Swansea's fault necessarily, but it would happen.

But all this talk is hypothetical. The match had to be booked at the Millennium and so it should be. If Koumas feels that San Marino need to be intimidated, it shows what a low ebb we've really reached. We are an international football team, and the Millennium is our home. Our children need that to aim at. Our youth teams need the carrot of that home debut dangled in front of them.

And for Koumas to talk of a "surreal" atmosphere is lazy. There will be 15,000 people there. Most of them will be die-hard supporters. Show a bit of respect eh, and understand that very few people in this life will experience wearing the red shirt in front of 15,000 at The Millennium Stadium. This is the attitude that makes me so angry about the current team. There is no connection with the Welsh population, and no appreciation of their responsibility to represent us with at least an ounce of integrity and humility.


dewi hughes said...

agree totally ,keep competitive games in millenium stadium ,but wrexham is a good second choice at any other available dates, lichtenstein was a fabulous night and a great crowd .

Livzy said...

as someone fortunate enough to have missed the game on TV, how did Big Stevie Evans play now that he was against a "proper" team in a competitive game?