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16 November 2022

Backing Wales for the World Cup, same old Ingerland, and a word for my sponsors

It is somehow reassuring that Wales are obviously not going to win the tournament.

By Hunter Davies

I think I will be Wales. “Come on Cymru!” I will shout when they play the USA on 21 November. Then, when England drag themselves on against the might of Iran later the same day, I will be behind the couch pleading no, please, spare us, I can’t bear it.

Anyway, I must be Welsh with my surname – which is spelled the pedigree way and not the low-class “Davis” way – despite being born in Scotland of Scottish parents. The legend in the family is that a Welsh soldier called Davies changed regiments at the Battle of Waterloo – no, not to join the French, but a Scottish regiment. He did not return to Wales but settled in Scotland instead.

Wales are obviously not going to win the World Cup, which is somehow reassuring. We Welsh fans don’t have any expectations, so can enjoy every throw-in won, ever corner, and madly cheer Gareth Bale when he staggers around for a few moments.

Ingerland is not going to win either, but that won’t stop Ingerlander fans going into ecstasy when they draw with Iran, get a jammy win against Wales, get stuffed by USA, but somehow proceed to the next round. Joy all round. Dancing in Trafalgar Square.

England fans, despite being total pessimists, always get carried away by the slightest bit of good play, like a pass forward, hurrah, or getting into the other half, oh wow, and become convinced the World Cup will now be won. Ever since 1966 that has happened. So that’s why I am giving up. I can’t face the hopes any longer.

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Ingerland are so like Spurs. The rare moments of expectation when they are at last in the opposition half, and Harry Kane has the ball, then the ball goes back, square passing across the penalty area, back to the goalie, or they belt it blindly upfield and give the ball away. Eric Dier and Harry Maguire shake their heads, as if unable to believe they have been picked for the team. So that’s why I am supporting Wales. You know where you are. Nowhere.

Oh hold on, there’s a knock at the door. Special delivery. Goodness: £50,000 in crisp £50 notes, with love from Guitar. Or is it Catarrh? I can never spell it, or even find it on the map. I hear it has the population of Carlisle, or something like that, is as hot as the sun, that no one plays football there, and nor are they keen on human rights and personal freedom – but come on, at least I can pay my gas bill now.

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I got a call last week from someone representing their government saying they are now contacting hacks everywhere who write about football, encouraging them to rave about their World Cup. I was on their list, said this bloke, as I have been writing about football since 1966: he has loved all my football books, “Gizza” is his hero, so they would love to give me a little present of £10,000 to help me, er, write a nice piece.

What? Only £10k? I get more than that when I mention Morrisons Beaujolais in my Sunday Times money column. When I raved about Kendal Mint Cake in my Cumbria Life column I got a year’s supply. Thanks to my Saga Magazine column I get a discount on my stairlift. And when I write that in January I am going to Bequia, the nicest island in the West Indies, a brass band and dancing girls always meet me at the airport.

[See also: Sale of Newport Wafer Fab is a brewing crisis for the next prime minister]

So I managed to get them up to £50,000. I have put the suitcase under the bed in case one of the grandchildren nicks some of the notes thinking they are Christmas paper napkins.

Guitar has already got enough fans willing to shout and scream and smile for the cameras and look awfully happy in exchange for free tickets and flights. We lazy hacks who will be sitting at home watching it on the telly have to be paid in hard cash. And I should think so too. Arse-licking is not easy.

So here goes: Catarrh has always been my fave country in the Mediterranean – or is it the Gulf? – full of really nice, warm, friendly, freedom-loving officials, offering you free glasses of Sauvignon blanc all day long. They don’t mind whose wife you go to bed with, or which chap, and certainly not if it is the Gorgeous Jack Grealish, kissy kissy. Catarrh is ever so permissive, like Swinging London in the Sixties. Drugs are available everywhere. And just look at those mini skirts.

As for football, it is not generally known they have been playing it there since 1863. They were at the first meeting at the Freemasons Arms in London, when the FA was set up and afterwards played Old Etonians – letting them win 21-0. Such sportsmen. Bless ’em all.

[See also: Strength, lovely lips and superhuman skill: why Erling Haaland can’t be stopped]

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This article appears in the 16 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The state we’re in