If you ever wanted to see the best that the Homeless World Cup could offer, you should have been at pitch one in Cardiff’s Bute Park at 1.40pm today.
Hosts Wales were taking on Zimbabwe in the men’s tournament and even though the heavens had opened into a torrential downpour, the stands were packed and the crowd sang without relenting: “Let’s go Wales, let’s go”.
And the fans’ dogged persistence in the rain was rewarded with an incredible football match – it was something that Michael Sheen could only dream of when he spearheaded Cardiff’s bid to host the tournament. The same too could be said of Street Football Wales’ founder Keri Harris when he founded the organisation back in 2003.
It was a tense clash that stayed 1-1 for a long period of time and every time Wales finally managed to get ahead, there was Zimbabwe to peg them back almost instantly, undeterred by the support from the home crowd.
Those fans thought they had won it late on, erupting when Mujahed Aqlan, who came to Wales as a refugee from Yemen, put them 4-3 ahead. But again Zimbabwe responded.
However, when Wales’ Shawn White went clean through on goal, the Welsh players and crowd had their moment, sparking joyous scenes. It was not without a scare once again from the African side – this time the long-range effort that curled into the top corner was controversially ruled out as it came just a moment after the full-time whistle, giving Wales a dramatic and hard-fought 5-4 win.