monopolies on welshness

​Welsh Football Team Not Welsh Enough to be Honoured at Welsh Cultural Festival

The Welsh national team will not be honoured at this year's Eisteddfod, because an Archdruid is upset that several players do not speak Welsh.

by Jim Weeks
Jul 29 2016, 2:01pm

PA Images

The Welsh national football team will not be honoured at this year's National Eisteddfod – the annual festival celebrating the country's cultural heritage – because several players do not speak Welsh.

The BBC reports that there had been calls for the team – who reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 – to be honoured at this year's Eisteddfod, which begins today (July 29) in Abergavenny.

But the festival's boss, Archdruid Geraint Lloyd Owen, was having none of it, reasoning that the presence of several non-Welsh-speakers on the team made it impossible to honour them at the event.

"If they can't speak Welsh I don't see how we can welcome them in, because Welsh is the biggest, strongest weapon we have as a nation and without it, we have nothing," he said.

While I'm understandably wary about calling bullshit on the opinions of an actual Archdruid, I am going to stick my head above the parapet and suggest that this is indeed bullshit. The Welsh language is justifiably important to some people living in Wales – though clearly not everyone, given that only around 20% of the country speak it fluently. For those who choose to do so, it's about heritage and national pride – and that's great.

But to call it the "strongest weapon we have as a nation" and suggest that "without it, we have nothing," perpetuates the insular stereotype that Wales' performance at Euro 2016 had helped carry the country away from. Chris Coleman's side making the semi-finals truly caught the attention of the world. It had people outside Wales talking positively about the country, and demonstrated many qualities Wales can be proud of: togetherness, determination, and Gareth Bale's free-kicks.

The fact that several players do not speak Welsh – indeed, several were not even born in the country – should be secondary when they represented the nation so well. No one showed more pride for Wales than skipper Ashley Williams, who was born in Wolverhampton. When the anthems rang out, every Welsh player was singing – even those who do not speak Welsh. Few countries can make that claim.

Whether or not they are honoured at the Eisteddfod is fairly irrelevant, though you suspect that they'd all be proud of the recognition. But when some Welsh people still feel their own countrymen should be ostracised because they don't speak the same language, you have a problem on your hands. The team's motto – "together stronger" – should not come with entry criteria.

The Welsh language is undeniably important to the country – it is something to be proud of, to sustain for future generations – but it's hugely reductive to suggest that without it Wales "have nothing." In fact, it's when you take non-Welsh-speaking people out of the equation that we are left with the least.

After all, Hal Robson-Kanu doesn't speak the language, but thanks to him Wales will always have this.

Not bad, for a non-Welsh speaker.