Return to Planet Football – Belgium 0 Wales 0


The cosmic buzz is back.

Last spotted in the ether leaving the Millennium Stadium after the 2003 play-off fiasco in Cardiff, en route to Planet Zog. Through your pain, tears and soul-sucking misery you probably didn’t see it. But I did.

Reappearance dated November 16, 2014. Brussels. We all saw it, smelt it, cherished it, revelled in it, ran our fingers nostalgically through its luxuriant locks and remembered the lost passion we thought we’d never encounter again.

The almost-illicit love that has no name, rare as a desert rainbow, elusive as Chris Coleman’s passport.

Well I never.

Mission impossible

Who’d have thought a dull 0-0 would give such cause for wild, exuberant joie de vivre?

I genuinely thought people confidently predicting a win on Eurostar on Sunday morning were nuts. Super nuts, nuts on toast.

I couldn’t be bothered, but wanted to say, no, scream: “We’re you in Serbia two years ago? Is this your first away trip with Wales? Are you drunk already?”

But, you know, no point getting too worked up.


This is a scientific centre in Brussels. They speak Flemish and French in Belgium but decided on a bastardised English word as the name of the site. As bastardised, made-up words go, I quite like it.

Brussels is also the home of the Atomium, the molecule structure next to the King Baudouin Stadium.

My theory: it turns out that Wales were in some sort of sci-fi bubble in the week clever scientists managed to landed a craft on the P67 comet.

The Atomium channelled the Welsh cosmic buzz back from its trajectory orbiting Treorchy, and transmitted it to Gareth Bale’s Alice Band. Of course, that’s why he wears it.

Belgium v Wales 2014
The Atomium, portal for a Welsh renaissance?

I’ve got Bale as the Sun, radiating team spirit or whatever, the life-giving force that his team-mates thrive on. It does look like that, doesn’t it? He acts like he’s almost the manager and, fair dos to Chris Coleman, he lets Bale get on with it and is happy to take the back seat.

If you’re getting tired of all this, just move on to the vids below, while the extended metaphor runs on:

Venus – fiery, up for it. Scrappy Chris Gunter, who should have been booked for arm wrestling De Bruyne in the second half.

Mercury – Ramsey, up one game, down the next, mercurial.

Earth – the safe refuge of Wayne Hennessey and his lovely big smile.

Uranus – no jokes here, oh bugger it (geddit?) – that’ll be, Joe Allen. Number 7, it’s the seventh planet from the sun.

Pluto – remote, cold, distanced from reality – the Premier League.

Andromeda – a different galaxy, populated by creatures from another planet – that can only be Fifa.

And of course the black hole, the life-stifling dark vortex at the heart of every Welsh fan’s pointless, desperate existence – and I know I’m not alone here. Accept yourself. That could only be . . .

Bobby Gould.

Beam me up

To focus on the many positives but bear in mind the tweet from Welsh football history guru Phil Stead below:

Bale gets the glare of publicity but Chris Coleman looks to have found, discovered or created his best side this autumn.

We saw it on Sunday, with maybe Jonathan Williams starting ahead of David Cotterill, who deserved his start after changing the game against Cyprus, and the left-back position being a toss-up between Ben Davies and Neil Taylor. Sam Vokes’s return could mean Hal Robson-Kanu hitting the bench and Bale playing wide. And Coleman has the hots for George Williams.

I hope Georgie doesn’t play in Israel as his impetuous late challenge which hospitalised Dries Mertens showed his inexperience. But apart from that, this was a return to old-style Coleman-era Wales.

The defending was dogged. It felt like Barry Horne was playing. Indeed, bifocalled Barry was spotted in La Mort Subite before the match, with a man off the telly.

It was gritty, ugly, hard-working, work-yer-socks off. Horne, with his centre of gravity lower than a grasshopper, would have loved the scrap and maybe would even got sent off. Allen’s his closest equivalent, but without the nasty streak, and a bit more skilful.

And then our very own Cardiff Comet, Senor Bale, nearly grabbed a winner in the second half. The Rhiwbina Rocket Man dragged one shot wide and Courtois pocketed another strike.

What an autumn it’s been, the first time we have not been out of the reckoning in a campaign after four matches since 2002.


Joe Ledley and James Chester are the stand-out figures. I genuinely though Ledley’s Wales career over especially as he played for too long up in Scotland. But all that quaffing Irn Bru and scoffing fried Crunchies has paid off.

Hazard wriggled and dribbled but met his Waterloo, couldn’t escape if they wanted to, once he got his crosses in – Chester and Williams snaffled them all.

Chester has been a revelation, player of the season already. Coleman’s defensive credentials have finally kicked in, his judgement has paid off and we’ve let in two goals in four games.

But what came through was the glorious belief. Not just in delusional fans.

The players too. I’ve been going for a long time. Too long. And never seen anything like this. To the tune of, very appropriately, called ‘Zombie Nation’. That just about sums Welsh football up in one song. PARENTAL WARNING: Inflatable sex doll alert near the end.

It speaks volumes. I can only recall Robbie Savage doing something similar.

That was a boring 0-0 too. In Warsaw in 2000, Savage did a post-match TV interview long after the end, came over to the cage where Polish police had had locked us in for centuries, presumably waiting for our boredom to warp into full-blown depression, and threw everything over the fence. Shirts, socks, boots, the lot.

He was left in a pair of skimpy white pants in which he appeared to be smuggling a small budgie, if indeed, there was a budgie at all.

Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon

That’s a single by The Cramps from the early 90s in case you are wondering.

The boy Ledley – what’s his game? Ledley’s beard became a talking point perhaps because the game, while tense, was not especially entertaining. It’s a generational thing but these fungus faces – I always unfollow people on Twitter if they update their picture with one. It’s a look that beardists like me think only Moeen Ali can carry off.Wales v Belgium, 2014

Liked the quip that he was auditioning for a role as Captain Haddock.

I think he looks like a Canadian frontiersman lumberjack. Felling trees by day, living in a wood hut on his own hunting and skinning his own food, fighting off wolves, wrestling bears etc.

In a desperate attempt to claim proximity I leave you with this: my brother fitted his dad’s kitchen for him six years ago!

It’s football sir, but not as we know it

A strange feature of this game is that, for me anyway, it was not a spectacle in any way shape or form. It featured many of the best 50 footballers in the world – all 11 Welsh guys of course, and four or five Belgians too – but only got mildly exciting for about 15 minutes in the second half.

Maybe there was plenty for purists to admire in dogged defence and endeavour, but (sighs) the best bits were meeting my mates, half-time, the shirt-slinging and some cracking chips after the match. Belgians give good potato.

This site doesn’t do spot the ball – but here’s a spot the nipple contest performed by Welsh clog dancers.

Watched this more than twice? Then you’re a perv in my book.

And talking of potatoes. Some odd looking extra-terrestrials in this one. PARENTAL WARNING: moob alert.

Arrest that man with a fag in his mouth.

News is that this cavorting wobbling flesh got a Royal seal of approval from our intergalactic overlords on the FAW.

Tut, tut, Tref, it’s ‘were’ not ‘was’.

2014 Space Odyssey

Twenty-two years ago nasty Belgian police threatened to arrest polite old me as I requested a well-behaved pal’s release from custody. He’d been a good boy and they’d been bad police, you can take my word for it – trust me, I’m a journalist.

Anyway, Brussels 1992 was close to being a police state on match days and I vowed never to go back there.

Gravitational pull dragged me back to Brussels, almost but not quite against my will. And I’m glad I went. I felt I was personally owed something and Sunday’s performance was a handsome payback for police intimidation. I treasure my grudges.B2wkJNtCUAEdEWe

The locals felt they had lost two points and it was amazing we didn’t lost to a team that I think will actually win 2016.

It was a return to Planet Football, this strange phenomenon where Welsh fans can feel pride and enjoy a match and relish the prospect of the next one once that game has ended.

What can I say? I never thought it could happen again. It was dream for those of us for whom Welsh football is the gateway drug to cosmic happiness.

A 21-gun salute to players and Mr Coleman, it was bloody scientastic.
Belgium v Wales, 2014

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