The Cardiff I moved to in 1980 was a very different city to the one we know today: no Cardiff Bay, no Millennium Stadium, no St. David’s Centre (1 or 2) etc. etc. My job had relocated from London and, having no Welsh roots or connections, initially I felt like an outsider. But four employers and thirty years on, I’m still here, and my identity has changed as much as the city itself – I now can’t envisage ever living anywhere other than Cardiff, and I feel far more Welsh than English.
It would have been possible to live and work in Cardiff, to bring up a family here, and yet continue to identify with my country (or county) of birth. I know contemporaries who have done just that, whether by choice or by chance. The catalyst for me, though, was sport – football to be precise.
During the eighties, not content with being only a long-distance supporter of my home team (though I will never abandon them), I started visiting some of the local clubs in south Wales. It was the era of the ‘fanzine’, the publishing boom of those pre-internet days, and I contributed the odd article on Welsh clubs to various publications; in time I became a Welsh correspondent for a couple of titles, now long-defunct. Travelling around Wales every Saturday, visiting places and meeting people I would otherwise never have come across, I developed a sense of belonging in Wales.
Twenty years ago, just as Wales was re-asserting its national identity in many walks of life, I was persuaded that Wales needed its own football magazine. Little realising how much of my spare time the project would consume, I was also persuaded to get involved. With our own funds, a few of us launched a modest little publication called Welsh Football in 1991, and 143 issues later it’s still going, a niche, not-for-profit publication admittedly, but our national football magazine nonetheless. It’s just a shame that, nineteen years on, it’s still so hard to raise its profile amidst the blanket coverage of English football here – new readers regularly tell me “I never knew it existed”. And even worse, since Borders bookshop closed, we don’t currently have a retail outlet stocking the mag in the capital city !
As Welsh Football’s unpaid editor, feature writer, photographer and many other things, I still travel around Wales on a regular basis, meeting friends old and new. Though I put in a lot of time (and sometimes money too) what I get out far outweighs it: not just enjoyment of the games, but appreciation of the variety and beauty of Wales, and above all a sense of identity: yes, after spending more than half my life here, I definitely consider myself Welsh now (and I think I’m widely accepted as such by my native Welsh friends and acquaintances, too). And I even pass the acid test: when Wales play England, there is no way I can cheer for the ‘three lions’!
Dave Collins is an IT consultant. He also publishes Welsh Football magazine (‘the National Football Magazine of Wales’), a not-for-profit magazine written by, and for, lovers of football in Wales and published eight times per season. The magazine is available by subscription – see http://www.welsh-football.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. He currently lives in Rhiwbina.
Dave was photographed by Simon Ayre