By Owen Hathway
Sport often has the ability to transcend its own boundaries. Historically this has been for political statements such as the boycotted Olympics of Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 or the Black Power salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico ‘68.
More examples have been the individual courage of an athlete such as the audacity of Jessie Owens four golds in Nazi Germany, Lance Armstrong recovering from cancer to win seven Tour de France titles or simply Derek Redmond’s last 200m in Barcelona 1996. Wales’ win against Samoa on Sunday in some way was another example of sport becoming more than just a game.
After the tragedy at the Gleision colliery this week, where as a nation we were united in hope and ultimately despair, for many communities in Wales the game lost its importance.
That the likes of Welsh squad members Alun Wyn Jones, Huw Bennett and George North took to twitter to send their hopes and condolences from the other side of the world, highlighted how close knit and big hearted the Welsh community is.
The awful irony of Wales being in New Zealand when the land of the white cloud suffered their own mining tragedy, where 29 miners lost their lives back in November 2010, will be lost on few from either nation.
The Welsh performance, whilst not inspirational in its play, was very commendable, beating a Samoa side which is arguably their strongest for a generation. After a week spent talking about a performance that wielded a plucky loss, most Welsh fans will settle for a narrow win that should avoid the biggest roadblock to the quarter-finals.
During a week in which rugby was not the focus of the front pages in Wales, this World Cup now takes on a new challenge for the Welsh squad. It’s not the victory or defeat but the passion, pride and honour in which either is delivered for a nation in mourning.
- You can help support the families of the miners that lost their lives at the Gleision colliery by donating to the miners fund at http://www.minersappealfund.org/
- Owen is an amateur rugby player and sports writer based in the Rhondda. You can follow him on Twitter – @hath53