Support – a question of sport


Nationality and patriotism are areas that can both stir up strong emotional feelings that are mostly for the good but sometimes not.

Of course, the most extreme forms of both are found in times of war or conflict between nations but, on a lesser scale, it flows across into the realms of sport.

When I moved from London to North Wales in 1992, despite being English by birth and parentage, I became loyal to my adopted country and its rugby union and football (soccer) teams – even when playing against England.

I learned to sing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the country’s anthem) in Welsh as well as to spell and say the name of its longest village: It is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and, yes, I did type all 58 letters without looking it up and without any correction being needed). Additionally, the only two rugby shirts that I have owned have been the red of Wales and the black of the Ospreys team based in South Wales. Although never having a Welsh football shirt, I still followed the progress and fortunes of the team.

So, what does that all mean for my impending move to Spain?

Switching allegiances from one British team to another was no big deal but supporting Spanish teams would entail a much greater transfer. But isn’t that what I will be doing by living there? In a way, yes it is but, conversely, I shall be remaining a UK citizen and I will continue to vote in parliamentary elections in the constituency I which I now live. So, loyalties will be divided.

Spain is not a major rugby-playing nation, so in that sport I shall continue to support Wales. Football is another matter, though. The Spanish seem to treat ‘futbol’ as a way of life, they are fervent. And the national team is good too, having won the World Cup in 2010 and the Euro Championship in both 2008 and 2012. I don’t think Wales will rival that team or play against it very much. It seems likely that I’ll be able to support both.

At club level, Fulham has remained my UK football team since moving to Wales but now I’ll need a Spanish one as well. On purely geographic grounds, that looks set to be Almeria that plays in the La Liga second tier in which it currently lies 16th of the 22 clubs. So it looks like I will have to get used to supporting a team that plays in a red and white striped shirt.

Baseball is another sport that interests me and, as theirs is the only stadium I have visited, Toronto Blue Jays is the team for me. On the other hand, Lisa being American says that my support should be for a USA team not one in Canada. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’d have to see them play first!

As far as my last major team sport is concerned, there is no need to change anything. This is because cricket is not a feature of many nations and so I can rest easy supporting the England team that represents the England and Wales Cricket Board.


Hunting not a sport or hobby

Just taking a short break from packing up possessions for shipping to Spain in advance of our move in November.

A few years ago, well in the 1990s to be accurate, I worked full-time as a journalist for a weekly newspaper in North Wales, in the UK. I include the UK qualification so that my American readers don’t think I was in Pennsylvania – yes, there is a North Wales there too.

Anyway, back to my story.

I have taken on many and varied roles during my journalistic career but, at that time, I was Rural Affairs Editor for a regional newspaper group covering a vast area of North West Wales. That area is renowned for its diverse terrain of mountains, including Snowdon, and lowland areas such as the Isle of Anglesey.

Commercially, it includes beef, dairy and cereal agriculture but the main rural activity, by far, is sheep farming. Next to this, the next major industry is tourism.

My rural affairs coverage included news and feature items along with a clearly labelled ‘opinion’ piece in which I was able to express my views on various rural matters.

One of these was the vexed issue of fox hunting that, at that time, had come under the spotlight as there was a plan to ban it. Many in the rural community opposed such a ban, talking about having the freedom to hunt and enjoy country sports. Others, also opposed to a ban, spoke of the need to keep fox numbers down because of the number of lambs that would be killed without hunts to control fox numbers.

In my opinion pieces, I may have surprised many readers by stating my clear and unequivocal opposition to fox hunting and in favour of the proposed ban.

The facts are simple:

  • Being chased by a pack of hounds would be terrifying for any creature.
  • Being torn apart by hounds is cruel. It is not a quick clean kill.
  • As a method of fox control, hunting is inefficient; very often hunts return without even finding a fox.
  • Some hunts even go as far as to encourage fox breeding in man-made ‘earths’ just to provide foxes for the hounds to hunt.

In due course, the ban was implemented. Did we see a huge explosion in the fox population in the UK? No. Did we see a sharp rise in the number of lambs and sheep being killed by foxes? Again, No.

It was with some surprise, therefore, that I heard that the current government was going to give MPs a vote on whether to amend the law, effectively rescinding the ban. Protests followed and the powers that be decided delay the vote until they could be sure of a majority. The battle may have been won but the war still rages on. It is not all over yet.

Talking of hunting as a so-called sport or hobby, I really don’t have time for anyone who hunts any animal just for something to do. And here I do not differentiate between foxes, lions or even giraffes. And to say giraffes are dangerous is ridiculous. They are placid and will run away rather than fight. If you get too close, they can kick if they feel threatened but they are not made to bite.

To me, there is something lacking in the brain of anyone who thinks such ‘sports’ are a ‘freedom of choice’ that must be defended. They are blots on mankind’s copybook and need to be erased permanently.

OK, I got that off my chest, now back to the packing.