‘This team fills me with pride’: Wales fans on qualifying for the World Cup

Wales are going to the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and their supporters cannot wait

It’s been 64 long years since Wales last appeared at the men’s World Cup but they are going to Qatar in November. Wales have attempted to qualify for every World Cup since 1950, making their only appearance in 1958. Back then, dreams of victory were ruined after eventual winners Brazil – specifically a 17-year-old Pelé – knocked them out in the quarter-finals.

There have been some painful near-misses since, but Wales are finally back at the World Cup finals after beating Ukraine 1-0 last Sunday in Cardiff. Guardian readers who have followed the team through thick and thin share their reactions.

‘It’s a fairytale’

It is something I thought I would never see. It’s just wonderful. I grew up watching a very good side that beat then-world champions Germany and Brazil. I did not realise that, for over 20 years, that was as good as it would get. More pain arrived in 2004 under Mark Hughes. Then John Toshack came in and blooded a lot of youngsters – many of whom are now mainstays in this side, including a young Gareth Bale.

The late, great Gary Speed came in as manager after Toshack. He modernised the setup, pushed for better facilities and created a club environment. Chris Coleman was next and he led us to Euro 2016, our first major tournament for 58 years. We reached the semi-final and lost only to eventual winners Portugal. We had another brilliant showing at Euro 2020 and now this. It’s a fairytale. Andrew, 41, civil servant, Swansea

‘I shed a few tears’

Russell. Photograph: Russell

I have been watching Wales home and away since I was about 14 and we have been through plenty of lows. I’ve seen us come close to qualifying several times only to experience heartbreak.

I was lucky enough to go to every game at Euro 2016, which exorcised many of those demons, but I still couldn’t truly believe we were going to a World Cup until the final whistle – and I have to admit that I shed a few tears. I am so proud of this team.

It is ridiculous that the World Cup is in Qatar, but I am desperate to be there for our first appearance in my lifetime. I’m just waiting for the Wales FA’s ticket allocation to go on sale. Russell, 46, Kent

‘Qualifying is a huge change’

Alan, 66, a Welshman living in Spain.
Alan. Photograph: Alan

After the perennial troubles of the team in my youth, it’s great to see them qualify for major tournaments but the feelings are subdued by the nature of the opposition in the playoff. Even as a Welshman I would have been pleased to see Ukraine win.

In my teens I was used to Wales competing with Northern Ireland for last place in the old Home championship, so qualifying for the World Cup is a huge change. The fact the finals are taking place in a country with a dubious human rights record and in a part of the world that is unsuited to top level sport confirms the complete corrupt mess that is professional football. Alan, 66, retired hospital pharmacist, Spain

‘This is the best ever time to be a Wales fan’

James and his partner Rachael.
James and his partner Rachael. Photograph: James

Having moved to Cardiff in 2012, my first game was a dire 0-0 against the Republic of Ireland in a friendly. Going from that to watching us qualify for three tournaments and winning our Nations League group has been amazing.

​​Although this is probably the best ever time to be a Wales fan, I am cautious about the future, knowing this may be the last we see of Gareth Bale and other players, but I am pleased with the talent coming through. I have to thank the Welsh half of my family for drilling my Welshness into me when I was growing up in Birmingham. James, 35, civil servant, Cardiff

‘I’m happy for my father, who remembers 1958’

Wales fan Gina.
Gina. Photograph: Gina

I grew up supporting the teams of the 1980s and there was a feeling we deserved better. It always seemed there was some last-minute injustice or bad luck to stop us from qualifying for things: the dodgy referee in the 1976 European Championship against Yugoslavia, the Joe Jordan handball decision against Scotland in the 1978 World Cup, the Iceland game in the 1982 World Cup when Wales were winning but failed to qualify on goal difference. We saw the other Home Nations qualifying, while we felt we were just as good if not better.

I’m happy for my father, who is in his eighties and still talks passionately about the last time Wales qualified for a World Cup in 1958. It’s great he will finally be able to have new, happier memories to reflect on. Gina, 47, university academic manager, Edinburgh

‘It’s been an absolute joy to watch this team’

After many heartbreaks, it’s been an absolute joy to watch this team over the last decade. To see Wales get the unexpected results borne out of friendship, camaraderie, skill, fun and hard work fills me with a goose-pimpled pride to be Welsh.

My mind always goes to Gary Speed when this brilliantly close squad exceeds expectations. He reshaped the nation’s view of our football team by bringing pride back into wearing the red jersey. It would be a once in a lifetime trip to see Wales in Qatar but, given the hugely important issues of reported human rights abuses, I’ll be watching from the comfort of my own fanpark in Cardiff. Wayne, 39, Rhoose

Wales would tease us by almost qualifying

Emma. Photograph: Emma

I never thought this would happen in my lifetime. I cried and cried when Paul Bodin missed that penalty, and watched the 1994 World Cup with sadness, despairing at what could have been. Wales would tease us by almost qualifying or winning against a world class team (such as West Germany after they had won the World Cup), only to be beaten by a team we should have beaten a hundred times over.

Finally, we have a team of players who adore playing for their country and will walk through fire to do it. I am so so proud. I would love to go to at least one of the games, although I am finding it hard to reconcile going to Qatar. With the cost of living crisis I’m not sure how much future me will thank current me for the debt. But then I also have to quiet that little girl inside me who dreamed of seeing Wales in a World Cup and never thought this day would come. Emma, 41, college lecturer, Bristol

‘We’ve gone from crying into pints to being covered in beer’

Wales fan Jon, 45, who lives in Caerphilly.
Jon Photograph: Jon

There have been so many times where we nearly did it and had our hearts broken that I started to think it would never happen in my lifetime. Then we qualified for Euro 2016 and made it to the semi-finals. That changed everything.

We’ve gone from crying into our pints to being covered in beer from crazy celebrations. We’ve had very good players over the years but never a team like Coleman’s, and now Rob Page’s. It all started with Gary Speed. I wish he was here to see this. We fear nobody in that group and the game against England on 29 November will be massive. Jon, 45, customer service manager, Caerphilly

‘I cried at every failure. Finally I’m crying with joy’

David, 60, who lives in Powys.
David. Photograph: David

I am beyond joyed at our qualification, particularly as a lifelong fan who attended every failure since the 1985 game against Scotland.

I have cried at each of our failures, rode the wave of hope before and during each game. Finally, I got to cry with joy at our wonderful achievement. I am blown away by our progress.

It is such a pity that the finals are in Qatar, a country I could not possibly visit with its abhorrent record of human rights, and the death toll of workers on the stadiums and infrastructure. The finals should never have been given to them. David, 60, environmental scientist, Powys


Zaina Alibhai and Guardian readers

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