Cymru Rydd by Mao
When our town of Merthyr Tydfil hosted a march in support of Welsh independence on September 8 this year, more than five thousand people turned up to champion the movement. So when Merthyr Town posted their support of the event on social media, many welcomed seeing a Welsh working class institution advocating the idea of Wales being free from the shackles of Westminster rule.
Prominent stars from Welsh sport gave also showed their solidarity to the cause, including former Welsh international and widely considered to be one of the finest goalkeepers of his era, Neville Southall, who told the gathered crowd at Penderyn Square to loud cheers: “Wales is the greatest country in the world, but it’s no good having a dragon if the dragon cannot roar”.
However, The Martyr’s support was shortlived, their fear of alienating a minority of British nationalist supporters saw them delete their post and retract all solidarity just four days later as they issued a statement distancing themselves from the event, saying their support was an “oversight and is the view of individuals in our fan base” as they “do not believe in promoting political messages through football”, even rather incredulously stating that “the players were unaware of the message behind the t-shirt’s” and that “the club would like to apologise for any offence caused and assure our fans of the club’s neutral stance in this situation.”
Of course, the club’s stance on the impartially of politics in sport is greatly erroneous and totally nonsensical because sport has always been political. It’s very common to see football teams and clubs support a manner of initiatives or causes, including the wearing of the poppy. Indeed, some of sports most iconic moments stem from political charged moments like when Jesse Owens made a mockery of Hitler’s claims of Germany’s racial pureness and supremacy at the 1936 Munich Olympics or when Nelson Mandela presented the rugby world cup to Francois Pienaar following South Africa’s post-Apartheid triumph as the ‘rainbow nation’.
Then we come to the derisory idea that Merthyr and politics can somehow be distinguishable, but as our rich and proud history has shown us the two are so intertwined in the very fabrics of the towns existence the two cannot, or should not, be separated. Merthyr is a cauldron of politics, struggle and ingenuity, not some leafy backwater in a hamlet where nothing much has ever happened.
It’s a town where our forefathers first marched under a flag made red from calf’s blood as a symbol of all workers during the historic Merthyr Rising of 1831, a symbol that became adopted as the international flag of the working classes, where rioters destroyed all townspeople debts and held the town for four whole days. A workers revolution was in the air, but swiftly the British state sent in the army, who butchered the protestors just a stone throw from our football ground where not even a plaque rests to commemorate them.
Our townspeople “contemptible” demands during the riots that were seen as so unjust by our British masters? They were demanding “caws a bara” – bread and cheese.
The town of Merthyr is a place that has endured extreme poverty and toil. A town that pioneered the invention of the train that modernised the world. A town that gave rise to social and workers movements such the birth of Chartism, trade unionism, the Labour movement and influenced the development of socialism around the world. A town became the iron capital of the world and the beating heart of the world’s first industrial nation - Wales.
It would be unthinkable if Merthyr Town Football Club allowed Salisbury or Wimborne Town to run our finances, decide our transfers or pick our match day eleven. It’s so obvious that autonomy over your owns affairs should be a given it barely feels like it’s even worth mentioning. If Merthyr voted for Brexit on the basis of the basis of the UK being bossed around by Brussels, it’s only logical we can now apply the same scrutiny towards the “United” Kingdom we’ve found ourselves forced in to.
Our stadium at Penydarren Park sits on the site of a Roman fortress, I wonder how delighted Emperors of Rome have been to see how the once fierce defenders of their land have become so willfully subservient to their colonisers, as some Welsh are to Westminster?
Wales was once a wealthy nation that created vast fortunes for industrialists and landowners, even making the 3rd Marquess of Bute the richest man in the world, but the grand buildings, streets and cities we see so often throughout Britain partly built on these Welsh fortunes are not to be found in our streets or towns or valleys because we were never equal in our “Union”. There’s no coincidence that once we were no longer seen as worth exploiting, the infrastructure and civic buildings once put in place to extract our wealth like our railways or canals or civic buildings were either ripped out or neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. Our townspeople have always been viewed as dispensable to the British state, it’s why we’ve been carelessly discarded onto the spoil tip, like the one at Aberfan, with no care or consideration for the consequences. It’s an all too common Welsh story and it’s okay to want better for our country - I just wish our football club wanted it too.