07/09/2002 - Finland v Wales Fans

07 Sep
Wales Fans
Venue: Helsinki, Finland.
Wales Lineup:
Phil Olyott, Stuart W. Hughes, Tim Hartley, Gareth Edwards, Alun Roberts, Stephen Davies, Ben Ling, Mark Bloom, Bryn Law, Gwydion Jones, Siôn Edwards, Gareth Bailey, Llŷr Jones, Gary Mayall, Daf Prys, Eifion Williams, Barry Powell, Alun Morris, Neil Dymock.
Wales Goalscorers:
Alun Roberts, Daf Prys.
Team photo

Back Row: (left to right): Gareth Edwards, Alun Roberts, Stuart Hughes, Stephen Davies, Phil Olyott (player-manager), Ben Ling, Mark Bloom, Bryn Law, Gwydion Jones, Sion Edwards.

Front Row: Gareth Bailey, Llyr Jones, Gary Mayall, Neil Dymock (captain), Daf Prys, Chester Hartley (mascot), Tim Hartley, Eifion Williams, Barry Powell, Alun Morris.

07 Sep 2002: Finland v Wales Fans ‐ Helsinki, Finland

The sun beat down as part of Finland's hottest summer ever. For players used to the spartan, doggie-do blighted fields of Pontcanna or Blaendolau, it was manna from heaven.

We were playing on a verdant sward so smooth it could have hosted a cricket match.

Next to the grandeur of Helsinki's Olympic Stadium we crossed swords with Finland on the impressive training pitch used by our hosts' top players.

Mark Hughes's boys had warmed up on it earlier in the day before rightly making way for, er, the main attraction.

And it started so well - a cross from the right and up popped Daf Prys on the far post to score. It looked as though it might be easy and we all had visions of netting a hat-trick for Wales. If only we had known...

The match went rapidly downhill from there but at least we had the comfort of knowing we were making history. At least 21 fans, we lost count of how many exactly, took part in the first match between our supporters and a foreign country's fans.

Another seven or so passed up the chance as they decided, like Ryan Giggs,that they don't do away friendlies.

And if you're wondering whether it was a bunch of jelly-bellied blokes with Stella Artois breath who scoffed a kebab at half-time, you'd be wrong.

The standard was surprisingly good and, your correspondent apart, everyone looked pretty useful.

Sixteen-year-old Gareth Bailey, from Llandudno, was the starting goalie probably because he was the only person present who would dive and not get up complaining of gippy knees.

We had a platoon of rugged Aberystwyth league players who could run for more than ten minutes (anyone over 30 will tell you this is an incredible talent) and a couple of front guys who were always a threat.

There are four explanations for the scoreline:
1 Seven lucky goals
2 Blame the media. The fiendish Finns targeted our manager Phil Olyott, a man with the wisdom of Solomon, as the main threat. They interviewed him for the whole of half-time (15 minutes) so that he couldn't make the tactical changes that would have assured us an entirely merited 11-5 win.
3 We stupidly didn't field our seven-year-old mascot Chester from Cardiff.In a kick-around on the sidelines he looked a lot better half the side.
4 Their number eight was bloody fantastic - he should have represented the national side later on in the day he was so good.

As a keen fan of conspiracy theories, your correspondent plumps for No 2. The scoreline flattered our hosts slightly, though they certainly deserved to win - maybe 5-3 would have been a fairer reflection of the game's progress.

But given that the Welsh team fielded two spry over-40s and probably had an average age seven years older than our hosts it was a great effort.

Despite two hours drinking time being lost and the kick-off being delayed two hours until 2.15pm so the Wales team could have a training session (Ok we won 2-0 but but don't do again or they'll be hell to pay, Sparky), it was worth it or those of us who don't drink much, and just about worth it for those who do.

As a spectacle it lacked plenty but many thanks to all those who turned out to watch - there were about 100 fans at the game.

And everyone who took part can proudly say that they were part of possibly the worst team to represent Wales at football at any level, ever.

That's saying something. But at least we can puff out our chests in pride and say we've savoured the taste!

And we managed one goal more than Bobby Gould's boys in Eindhoven.

Best moment: Any player who experienced the sweltering heat would say it was the moment he was substituted. Hot? Crikey, there was more panting than a Roman orgy, mun.

Best player: Up front, sports writer Mark Bloom was always a threat but then he was out in Finland on South Wales Echo eckies (expenses) and, technically, he was on a business trip.

Though he'd disagree, he doesn't qualify as a fan to us sniffy sorts who've spent billions of zonks and wasted their lives watching Wales abroad. So best player was his partner in crime up front, Aberystwyth's Daf Prys, who deservedly scored our first goal to give us a 1-0 lead.

Most dastardly dragon: Wrexham rough-house Stu Hughes totted up three of about five fouls committed by Wales. He growled later: "They were lucky I wasn't in a bad mood."

Showboater of the day: After crying off with an arm injury, Gog Bryn Pritchard ran the line and drew attention to himself throughout the game, tripping up twice over a ball in a minute and gifting our hosts two goals by failing to spot offsides. FIFA should launch a probe. A marked contrast was Kent's Phil Nicholson on the opposite line - a soul of discretion.


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