I took the day off from EURO 2012, as did the fans and players in Poland/Ukraine, to take the train over the border to Wrexham General station, a 15 minute journey from Chester and next door to the oldest international football ground in the world, now called, Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium. The old stadium, and with it the future of Wrexham FC have been rescued and renovated after the university took over. Anna-Marie Brown of Glyndwr runs the stadium from her office inside the stadium, and has major developments and events planned for the future, as a premier venue.
The occasion was the Group 4 match between Wales and Israel for the UEFA 2013 Women's Finals in Sweden, which will see the top 12 nations in Europe take part. France top the group and have already qualified. I took time out after arriving early to look around Wrexham city centre which has some amazing pubs but lots of boarded up shops, even Poundworld!!.
Not much excitement, I couldn't even find a Welsh tourist postcard for sale, so I went to look around the university campus behind the stadium. It had some impressive indoor and outdoor sports facilities and I spent half an hour chatting to Gareth and other members of the Welsh Football Trust watching young children play on the artificial turf behind the main stand.
I had come to watch an old friend Sarit Shenar who plays for Israel. They are bottom of their group, having lost every match, home and away, and have had a difficult time in Britain these last few days. They lost 8-0 at Tynecastle in Edinburgh at the weekend, a match marred by bad weather and by 200 Palestinian political supporters who booed their national anthem and their every move.
There was a protest by the North Wales Palestinian Solidarity group on Mold Road outside the stadium and most were barred entry and those that did get in were pounced on immediately and frog marched out by the Heddlu Cymru, the Welsh police and secret service. A change from their usual job of catching sheep rustlers and drunken shepherds. Well done lads.
I watched from the opposite side as the Israeli team arrived with a police escort on motorbikes. I encountered these gallant lads in their black leathers and jack boots as they went in search in the guest lounge at half time for more chocolate biscuits!! A bikers favourite.
No problem peaceful protests outside, but let's leave the Palastinian flag waving outside our stadiums. I am a supporter of hard working Israel and can you imagine what would happen if I waved an Israeli flag in a stadium in Palestine, Syria or Lebanon, or booed their anthems ?? I was in the Olympic village in Munich in 1972. What is the Arab word for democracy. Kalishnikov ??
Recently Michel Platini rebuked the Palestinian F.A. President Jibril Rayous for asking him to move the 2013 Men's U 21 UEFA championships from Israel. They won the right in a democratic vote over the other candidates, England, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, and Platini sent a letter of support to Israel FA chairman Avi Luzon. FIFA president Sepp Blatter and IOC chairman Jacques Rogge also support the choice by UEFA.
Before kick off I had a chat with the Israeli coach Meir Nachmias and asked him to say hello to my good friend Abraham Klein in Haifa, where I once spent a week in his home, the best EVER referee( sorry I cannot put you in the same class Graham Poll, and you can't count).
In the lounge I also had an interesting conversation with Eleanor Burnham, a former member of The Welsh National Assembly who was to sing the Welsh National Anthem, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" (Land of my Fathers). She did a splendid job and got a well deserved standing ovation. Eleanor told me that she would have sung "Hatikvai" (the Hope), the Israeli anthem, if she had been given time to learn it.
I was pleasantly suprised by the improvement, skill, tactical awareness of the Welsh Women in Red, who are coming along under their Finnish coach Jarmo Matikainen. They won in Cork last Saturday against Republic of Ireland and are up to 45th in the FIFA rankings, and 25th in Europe. Next year Wales will host the UEFA U19 Women's finals in 5 stadiums in South Wales.
There is a 12 team Welsh Premier League featuring 2 clubs from the North, Wrexham and Caernarfon which is split in two zones, but next year will go national. Many girls play for English clubs such as Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bristol Academy, Arsenal, as well as Cardiff City and get regular top club competition.
The refereeing trio came from Poland led by Karolina Radzikjohn, and UEFA delegates were from Greece and Finland. An expensive evening when there was free entry and less than 1,000 inside.
Natasha Hurley of Cardiff City opened the scoring after only 3 minutes and had completed her hat trick with two headed goals before the break. The visitors were getting tired and frustrated and a 4th from Sarah Wiltshire of Watford, and the 5th from Hanah Keryakoplis made the final score 5-0.