Wales’s football revolution is born of tears, pride, fan culture and radical history | Elis James

This national team is no longer defined by failure on the pitch but appearing at a World Cup takes national harmony to a new levelWales fans have been waiting 64 years to take their place among football’s elite and a long-held pipe dream has suddenly begun to feel very real. For some, confirmation that we have made it came when they saw Wales in a Panini World Cup sticker album, unfinished business from childhood being concluded in middle age. For others it is the uncharacteristic cavalcade of content around the Wales squad. TV documentaries, pages to ourselves in broadsheet pull-outs, journalists who have spent careers covering other teams muttering about “indefatigable team spirit” on podcasts, all complementing the Football Association of Wales’s relentless social media blitz; footage of Gareth Bale putting off Chris Gunter as he tries to pose for his official photo, Ben Davies ruffling Joe Rodon’s hair, the team laughing as they do stretches in the new training kit that is flying off the shelves in Wales.For me it was seeing Cafu, the greatest full-back of all time and the most capped Brazil footballer, welcome Wales to the tournament on behalf of Budweiser by speaking Welsh. “Cymru,” he says, resplendent in our 21st‑century national dress, the Spirit of ’58 bucket hat; “Croeso nol” (“Welcome back”).

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