Nov. 21, 2022, 1:49 p.m. ET
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:49 p.m. ETCredit…Clive Mason/Getty Images
The chorus of the song comes crashing down in an irresistible wave. You might not have any clue what the words mean, but that’s OK. Neither do lots of the people singing it.
The name of the tune is “Yma o Hyd.” It was released in 1983 by Dafydd Iwan, a Welsh nationalist folk singer. Its title translates to “Still Here.” And now, in all places the Welsh soccer team goes, it seems to follow.
“I don’t know each word because I don’t speak fluently in Welsh,” said Gareth Bale, the captain of the team, which frequently plays the song in its locker room and on the bus before games and might be serenaded with it by its fans today in Al Rayyan. “The song is beginning to turn out to be our anthem, behind the national anthem — one that everyone likes to sing.
“It’s very catchy. It means something to us all and engages the players with the fans. It’s been an enormous hit.”
The song’s path to jock jam status was an unlikely one. It has regularly grown in popularity through the years after being adopted by sports clubs and pro-independence groups. One such campaign for Welsh independence pushed the song to No. 1 on the UK’s iTunes chart in 2020.
Earlier this 12 months, Iwan was asked by the Welsh team to sing the song on the sphere before two crucial qualifying matches. Videos of those performances, with fans belting out the words in unison, circulated across the globe. The song reached No. 1 on the iTunes chart again soon after, ahead of songs from Kate Bush, Harry Styles and Lady Gaga.
“It’s difficult for me to clarify the appeal, but obviously there may be a patriotic appeal from the Welsh viewpoint,” Iwan said. (The defiant and proud Welsh chorus translates to “We’re still here.”) “But additionally it’s quite a stirring song, an anthemic song. Plenty of individuals who’ve never heard it before, after they hear it for the primary time within the stadium, they’re quite taken by it.”
Moments after Wales qualified for the World Cup in June with a win over Ukraine in Cardiff, all the team — with Bale front and center — sang the song together again with Iwan on the sphere. Iwan, who has traveled with the team to Qatar for the World Cup, said the sight of a player of Bale’s stature singing a song in Welsh at the highest of his lungs was invaluable for promoting Welsh identity. He praised the Welsh Football Association for more conspicuously integrating elements of the nation’s culture and language “into the entire ethos of the team” in recent times.
“My support for the Welsh football team is an extension of my Welshness. They’re all intertwined,” Iwan said.
Iwan, like a lot of his compatriots, went out that night in June to have a good time the team’s World Cup berth. Town, he recalled, was rocking with joy.
“The primary pub I walked into, everybody stood up and cheered as if I had scored the winning goal,” he said, laughing.