It’s a video that Dilys Rana has watched over and over: Welsh actor Michael Sheen, who was asked by a TV host to give a mock pre-match speech for the Wales vs England soccer match, offers a stemwinder For centuries.

“When the English come knocking on our door, let’s give them some sugar, boys!” she bellows as the stage music swells. “Let’s give him some Welsh sugar! They have always said that we are too small, too slow, too weak, too full of fear. But yma or hydchildren of speed, as they tumble around us – we’re still here!

Even in the suburbs of Chicago, far from her homeland of Wales, Rana was wiped out.

“It was really great,” she said. “Really, really good.”

Wales make their first World Cup appearance in 64 years and will be the first opponents of the United States men’s national team on Monday. Chicago’s small Welsh community will gather for watch parties, though the real action will come eight days later when Wales and England square off in the heat of the Qatari desert.

Wales striker Gareth Bale, left, and team mates take part in a training session at Al Sadd SC in Doha November 17, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament.

“If ever the Welsh beat the British in any sporting competition, it’s a great national victory,” said University of Maine historian Anne Kelly Knowles, who has written on Welsh migration to Chicago. “It’s one of the biggest things that can happen.”

Wales is a nation of 3 million that occupies the same island as England. Although part of the United Kingdom, it has had thorny relationships with its neighbor for hundreds of years: Knowles said a divisive factor in the 19th century was Parliament’s insistence that the Welsh speak English instead of their own language mother, although the hunt for better wages was the main reason many emigrated to the United States

The Chicago area’s Welsh population peaked around the turn of the 20th century and led to the development of Welsh chapels, newspapers, and social and fraternal organizations, Knowles wrote in “The Encyclopedia of Chicago.” As with many immigrant communities, their ethnic identity has diminished as new generations have assimilated into the American mainstream, but it has not vanished entirely.

Rana, who grew up in Wales, is president of the Welsh Cambrian Society of Chicago, an organization that is nearly 170 years old. Members gather for various events and recently decorated a tree for the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” exhibit.

But there’s nothing like a major sporting event to ignite national pride, and that’s especially true for Wales, which is in the midst of an escape from the UK.

The national football team, known as the Dragons, was a big part of that movement. When the team beat Ukraine in June to qualify for their long-awaited World Cup, the crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium burst into “Yma o Hyd” – translated as “Still Here” – a provocative folk song in the Welsh 80s that has grown in popularity.

The nation’s football association has also advised that after the World Cup it intends to designate the team name as Cymru, pronounced ‘COME-ree’, as the country is called in Welsh.

Rana said Wales and its expats have particularly enjoyed the success of ‘Welcome to Wrexham’, a television documentary showing the exploits of a small Welsh football club bought by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

“They have received an award from the Welsh Government for raising the profile of Wales,” he said. “We have a very strong identity and anyone who supports our causes is a champion in our eyes.”

The Dragons are led by Gareth Bale, a forward known for his signature man bun and once fearsome speed. After years of success and controversy in Europe, he arrived in the United States this year and promptly helped Los Angeles FC win a Major League Soccer title with a last-minute goal.

Wales captain Gareth Bale, left, shares a joke with team mates during Wales' training session at Al Sad Sports Club on November 17, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

But at age 33, Bale is long past his best days. His transfer market value – an estimate of how much a player would fetch if he were up for sale – is just $2 million.

Wales’ entire squad is valued at just $165 million, which puts them 23rd out of 32 World Cup squads. Their old rival, England, is in first place, with $1.3 billion.

However, matches aren’t won on spreadsheets and some pundits predict Wales will make it past the four-team group, which also includes England, the United States and Iran, to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.

As for winning the whole thing? The bookies have them as a 200-1 long shot.

Long odds aside, David Parry of the Chicago Tafia Welsh Society – Tafia is a tongue-in-cheek mix of “Taff,” a derogatory nickname for a Welsh person, and “Mafia,” in recognition of Al Capone’s Welsh sidekick. camp Murray the Hump – said World Cup fever has reached a boil, both among expats like him and people at home.

Unsurprisingly, anticipation for the match against England is particularly intense.

“Whoever wins, it’s going to be unbearable for a decade,” he said.

But win or lose, Parry said the tournament represents an opportunity for the rest of the world to learn about Wales and for those who have ventured far from the Land of Castles to unite in national pride.

“If we just get through those three (group stage) matches, it will be worth it,” he said. “At this point we will take whatever we can. It’s more than exciting.

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