The Welsh football team have arrived home safe and sound and to a heroes’ welcome after they surpassed all expectations and won the hearts of not just their own nation, but many others during their games which took them to the semi-final of Euro 2016. The streets of Cardiff were lined with tens of thousands of proud fans who waited patiently for hours in order to catch a glimpse of the team who have come closer than any British team before them to reach a tournament final in the last half a century.
A Heroes’ Welcome
The team appeared through the gates of the famous Cardiff Castle, where they signed autographs and posed for photographs and selfies with fans before taking part in the traditional open-bus parade which ended at many of the players’ home stadium, Cardiff City. Here, a lavish homecoming celebration, including a set from Welsh rock band, Manic Street Preachers, took place.
Turning Rugby Fans
Although the national sport of Wales is traditionally rugby, there were a number of die-hard rugby fans out in Cardiff today to celebrate the return of the football team. Gareth Doyle, a forestry worker from Pontypridd, was out to watch the celebrations. He told The Guardian that whilst he is not usually a big fan of football, he was very impressed by what the team had achieved for Wales. Indeed, the team, which comprised of one global superstar, Gareth Bale, and other professional footballers from a range of Welsh teams, captivated the interest of many who normally have no interest in football and prefer rugby. Even those who have no previous interest in sport at all were heading down to their local casino to place a bet on Wales for the semi-finals in the Euros for 2016.
Where Wales Go from Here
A fan at the homecoming celebration for the team said, Wales is now ‘on the map’ when it comes to international football. Narrowly missing a place in the final due to their loss to Portugal which included a spectacular showdown between Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of today’s most renowned footballers, Wales has definitely given themselves a name and made people take notice of them as a team during the past month. Negatives from a month which is truly memorable and set to go down in history are going to be hard to find, but it’s not unlikely that the whole of the team will be feeling some disappointment – maybe not for this performance as a whole, but the sense that they did not lose to an opponent who was all-round superior. The task now for the Welsh team is to make sure that they keep this same momentum and drive with them into to the World Cup qualification and reach the World Cup games in Russia in 2018.
The Welsh team may have sadly ended their journey in the Euros this year, but Welsh football – and rugby – fans alike have high hopes for them in their future endeavors.
Photo by Jon Candy