All you need is love: Cyprus 0 Wales 1

EF843944-542E-422C-B397-B2E7B324BAB6You-know-who put us in tantalising touching distance of Euro 2016 – guest post by ALAN LEWIS (@ABERTEIFI_) who was smitten by what he saw 

A land of never-ending sunshine, olive groves, amber nectar and all the kebabs you can eat.

The place where Aphrodite, goddess of love and dazzling beauty, emerges from the foam of the sea enchanting anyone who sees her.

DFDDD9B0-B6F3-4861-A741-89710EF10CF3Some thought I was mad even contemplating turning my back on that little lot and leaving Cardigan for a couple of days. But with Wales undefeated, top of the group, ranked ninth in the world and two wins away from qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since cough fifty cough eight, something had to give.

Paradise would still be there when I got back with three points in my pocket.

With five days in Bosnia looming on the horizon my trip to the Mediterranean was always going to be a quick in and out, 36-hour affair.

Last flight out on Wednesday night from London, landing at 3am on match day .

Eat….sleep….rave…..repeat, as we say in Aberteifi. Apparently this ancient Welsh concept has now also reached Ayia Napa. They’ll be having foam parties next!

This northern cocktail bar featured a guinea pig run and ornamental rocket shell
This northern cocktail bar featured a guinea pig run and ornamental rocket shell

I’m used to seeing the odd ‘cadno’ (fox) or two lurking in the moonlit shadows of rural West Wales but boarding the ‘red eye’ flight to Larnaca behind a Fox wearing an FAW tracksuit, obligatory supersized headphones and camouflage rucksack needed a double take.

James Chester’s late withdrawal through injury meant a last-minute call-up for Morgan Fox from Charlton Athletic.

The presence of our new kid on the block filtered back quickly through a plane carrying 50 or more Welsh fans. By the time the Strongbow-infused whispers had reached row Z we were sharing our latest Wales Away adventure with Michael J Fox and his sister Samantha, “the tall fella who plays for Charlton” and that guy Basil who goes “Boom Boom”.

Nicosia is a fascinating place. We spent match day enjoying the hospitality of those living in both the north and south of this divided city, passing back and forth across checkpoints in the UN buffer zone.

Whilst the political and cultural differences are stark and complex, the unifying feature as always was their love of the beautiful game. In the south we listened to enthusiastic tales of APOEL, Omonia and Olympiakos.Cyprus v Wales

In the north we chatted to the locals about Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas.

In the main post office in the north one member of staff sat proudly in front of a Galatasaray team photo and scarf.

He overheard us chatting to his Besiktas-supporting mate about John Toshack and leapt out of his seat and came over to tell us that Dean Saunders had scored 15 goals for ‘his team’ much to the bemusement of his long queue of patient customers.

The beer contest between Efes in the north v Keo in the south was an honourable draw but we lost count of the precise number of goals. It’s thirsty work playing in this hot weather.

The game itself can best be described as a tense 0-0 draw which we won 1-0. The temperature and the hard pitch didn’t help matters but our defence was magnificent yet again.

Had Dave Edwards’ disallowed goal stood or if Neil Taylor had taken his first half chance things might have been different but as it was 3,500 Welsh fans had to wait until the 82nd minute for our ‘fox in the box’- that’s Gareth not Morgan – to power an unstoppable header past Georgallidis and into the back of the Cypriot net.

Cyprus v Wales
UN buffer zone. Premature talk of qualification strictly forbidden

Delirious scenes followed in the stand opposite awash with Wales supporters creating a truly wondrous sea of red.

This was followed with ecstatic celebrations by players and fans alike at the final whistle. ‘We love to sing, we love to dance, got our passports we’re off to France’ echoed around the GSP Stadium.

As the bars of Nicosia began to close in the wee small hours we meandered back towards our hotel. Just as we were losing hope of a one-for-the-road nightcap we passed an empty bar with music still playing.

Well if you don’t ask you don’t get. “I will stay open for one more drink,” said the young attractive lady behind the bar.

She promptly gave us a round of Skinos Mastiha Spirit – has therapeutic qualities* apparently (*source Hippocrates 500BC) – on the house.

She then played We are the  Champions to celebrate Wales’s win. Did anyone mention goddess of love?IMG_2962

As we wandered dreamily around the sweltering streets of Nicosia on Friday morning we stumbled across a hand carved sign which read “Welcome to brave new world”.

Top of the group with only three games to go, another late winner, a fourth successive clean sheet, the possibility of qualification with two games to spare

Probably not what Aldous Huxley had in mind but I’m sure he won’t begrudge the analogy. It’s been 57 long years in the making.

So, the whistle-stop trip was at an end – after cleaning the party foam from my ears I left Cyprus with Andy Williams singing in my headphones (the normal sized ones you understand).

Beautiful Wales – you really are just too good to be true.

Who needs Aphrodite?96041CDA-DE5F-4EC9-B1BA-6B1E2D85BC87

IMG_0200

 Copyright on words and pictures in this article belongs to Alan Lewis, Cardigan.

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