I’m not a Cardiff RFC fan, let alone a Cardiff Blues fan. I’m not from Cardiff, although I did live in that god-forsaken chavish hellhole (initially next door to a Canton drugdealer who used to deal with domestic strife with Mrs Drugdealer by running out into the street, picking up a brick and chucking it through his own front window) for 10 years. But I had a blast in the ‘diff.
I used to go to Cardiff Arms Park regularly. I used to go even before I moved to Cardiff. I went there first to watch my village, Waunarlwydd, play in the Schweppes Cup in 1979. I was five years old, Waun got battered, but I knew I was somewhere special. I went with mates from school in about 1990 to watch another Schweppes Cup game, this time an awful effort between Cardiff and Llanelli in a monsoon. I stood at the front of the North Terrace, got soaked, and climbed over the fence to run on to the pitch at the end (I’m still washing bits of mud from between my toes now). I shouted myself hoarse watching a Nigel Walker try beat Bath in the Heineken Cup in 1997. I saw Llanelli win the last proper club league title in 2002 with a late penalty (after Peter Rogers, of all people, had scored after a lovely arcing outside break on the left wing). I used to love its location. I could take some common clobber into work, change, walk to the City Arms or the Green Parrot, have a few pints, stroll across to the game, and stroll back. Or I’d go to the clubhouse (upstairs only, cos I’m common) to watch an international when Wales were playing away. It’s a special place, and even for a Jack-born Turk, it holds special memories.
I left Cardiff before they moved out to the Cardiff City Stadium, but even from my new vantage point in Snowdonia 1890, it obviously wasn’t working. A mate who was a lifelong Cardiff supporter (just the one, I do have standards you know), bought a £20 ticket for the first game, sat way out in the corner, and spoke to people afterwards who’d sat near the halfway line having been given tickets in Asda that morning. He didn’t go back.
Today, Cardiff’s professional rugby team play their first game at their proper home for a few years. It’s Connacht, it’s a 6 Nations Friday, the venue was switched from the Lego Stadium with three days notice, and it’s a sell-out. And this has made me happier than pretty much any domestic rugby story in years.
I hope all those Cardiff Gwladers who’ve wound themselves into a frenzy all week had a cracking night back at their real home. And I hope you have many, many more nights like tonight.