Welsh of Italy, from ambassador Jill Morris to Stephen Varney and Terry Holmes rugby

Welsh of Italy, from ambassador Jill Morris to Stephen Varney and Terry Holmes rugby
Welsh of Italy, from ambassador Jill Morris to Stephen Varney and Terry Holmes rugby

If all the Welsh people were conceived on a rugby pitch, if Wales is the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere, there is not too much room for football beyond the Offa Wall. But there is always the time and above all the pride to cheer on the national team of Bale and Ramsey as ambassador Jill Morris, for five years now representative of the United Kingdom in Rome, will do today, with great and elegant discretion, ” ”In the stands at the Olimpico or at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and invariably dressed in dragon red when Italy and Wales compete in the Six Nations rugby.

European 2020, today the challenge between Italy and Wales at the Olimpico

In reality, even yesterday “the girl from the village of Pantymwyn” – as she defines herself – diplomatically repeated the same sentence for the 2020 European Championships on the eve of every rugby match: “I’m happy and impatient, may the best win”, but with oval ball is a little wish or effective point for Italy, fifteenth in the world ranking while Wales are seventh.

Instead, the situation is mirrored in football: Italy seventh, Welsh thirty-second, which does not make the situation at Stephen Varney’s home, in Cardigan, less uncertain, between scenarios from Mago Merlino, from where the twenty-year-old scrum half of the Azzurri arrives, since last year in the first team after leading the under 18 and under 20 to good victories also against Wales. “So, dad Adrian (notable Neath rugby player, ed) – says Steve, Gloucester player in the English Serie A, just returned from a regatta in the St George’s canal – will certainly sing the Welsh anthem, but he will be in the minority since mother Valeria and grandparents will sing Mameli, also because, apart from rugby, sporting comparisons between these national teams are not frequent. In football, for example, I don’t even remember one ». Already, the last match in football dates back to 2003 and out of 9 comparisons Italy has won 7, while in rugby Italy has only 2 wins and a draw on 29 games.

Yeah, but what hymn will the Italy-born scrum-half be singing? “(Long sigh) Come on, let’s both.” That of Wales, where singing in Gaelic is a compulsory subject for elementary and middle school, is a very powerful and poignant entity: “The old land of my fathers” will echo this afternoon in all the green valleys of the Principality, on the mouth of the 3 5 million inhabitants among whom in 1945 decided to remain Stephen’s great-grandfather, Carlo Fusconi, a farmer from Cesena, captured three years earlier in Cyrenaica by the English. “If they treat me so well in what is a prisoner of war camp (in Newcastle Enlyn), life around here can’t be bad,” he thought before calling his fiancée from Italy and marrying her. Two generations of Italians in Wales and we arrive at Steve, whose mother, however, chose the Welsh rugby player Adrian. “But dad is also a Manchester fan and when we go to see relatives in Cesena he takes me to the Manuzzi stadium to watch soccer.”

Ambassador Morris, who hopes to see both teams at Wembley, praised the Welsh team spirit he wished Pob Iwc (“Good Luck”, in Gaelic). «It’s right, when they wear the national team shirt no one can beat them, at most it can happen to score more goals than them as Italy could do at the Olimpico. And every player has the very strong pride of the village or valley he comes from, like Joe Allen (aka the Welsh “Pirlo” of Stoke City), who attended the same school as me in Presley. Epperò is not too different from the pride with which my great-grandparents and maternal grandparents have raised the farm after the war where I grew up driving tractors. They introduced the Welsh people to the wine and products of Romagna that they imported and that they combined with local productions. I was thinking about their sacrifices when I found myself at the crossroads as a player: Wales or Italy? You know what I have chosen ».

The twenty-year-old rugby player’s ancestors were among the first Italians to make “made in Italy” known among the Welsh, then in the seventies the family also thought about it Sidoli intertwining his history of rugby again: Robert Sidoli is among the protagonists of the ice cream empire that conquered the whole of the United Kingdom from Wales (memorable was the catchphrase “Just one cornetto give it to me”). who in the early years of the millennium decided to stay in the red jersey when he became good enough to join the rugby team. But in these Italian-Welsh exchanges in the sign of the oval ball also stands out Terry Holmes, stellar scrum-half (already, like Varney) of the Dragons and even of the Lions (the super team of United Kingdom and Ireland) in the seventies: a career too short due to injuries, but then, thanks to his sister Cristine, the new life with the discovery of Sabinashire. That is the one that he, having become a building builder, helped to create in Casperia and surroundings, among the olive trees in the province of Rieti with a view of Rome, renovating a farmhouse and then gradually attracting a colony of Welsh that in the summer becomes a branch of Swansea or Cardiff. Another peak in attendance in February or March when Italy-Wales is staged at the Olimpico: from Casperia to Rome it’s two steps.

Paolo Ricci Bitti

«I am very happy and impatient – said Ambassador Morris – to be able to return to the stadium, to attend a live sporting event, and I will support the colors of my team, my Wales, or Cymru, in our language. I congratulate Italy for the results that have been achieved, I have seen the first two games and enjoyed the football played by your team, but I am pleased to add that my Wales started very well, and I am convinced that we will witness a wonderful match between two teams aspiring to first place in their group ». “We have well-known players like Bale or Ramsey, but I must say that one of the strengths of the Wales team is team spirit, the way they play together as a united team.”

«Obviously, considering the restrictions due to Covid, we do not expect a large presence of Welsh fans in Rome this time, but I will do my best to represent them at the stadium, even singing our anthem. We will surely miss our fans, who are always cheerful, always sing and bring their enthusiasm to these sporting events. We are aware of the conditions dictated by Uefa and the Italian Federation, and I would like to thank the city of Rome, the authorities and also the police for their welcome and the work done to guarantee an extraordinary sporting spectacle ». In common between Italy and Wales «it is a passion that unites us, in my opinion, for football and for sport in general. I also like tennis, and I was pleased to see the success of young Italian tennis players. On Sunday I have no doubt that this passion for sport will come out».

Sunday 20 June 2021, 09:59 – Last updated: 10:16


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