World Cup 2022: Welsh anthem praised around the world

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Wales may have secured a draw against USA in their first World Cup match in 64 years but there was an undisputed winner – the Welsh national anthem.

Social media was awash with praise for Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, which translates as Land of My Fathers, after it was sung at a World Cup for the first time.

Wales sang God Save the Queen when they last qualified for a World Cup in 1958.

The song is believed to have originated as Wales’ anthem in response to the New Zealand rugby team’s haka in 1905.

It will gets its second World Cup outing when Wales take on Iran on Friday morning.

After hearing Wales’ 3,000 fans belt out the anthem at the Al Rayyan Stadium, Gary Lineker, who is anchoring the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup, tweeted: “Crikey, the Welsh can bang out an anthem. Goosebumps.”

A tweet from the US said the anthem was the “winner of the World Cup of National Anthems Bracket”.

Another viewer in Sweden tweeted: “Nobody, and I mean nobody, sings their national anthem like the Welsh. Just watching it on TV makes you feel like you could run through a brick wall.”

Another described it as an “absolute belter”, adding: “It would bring a tear to a glass eye”.

West End star Sophie Evans sang the anthem at the Euro 2016 qualifier between Wales and Israel at the Cardiff City Stadium, and called it a very emotional experience.

“It was incredible… to be in the middle of the pitch was just awesome… I was really chuffed and honoured,” said Sophie, who is from Cardiff.

She said she had assumed, as a “very proud Welsh girl”, she was biased in thinking it was one of the best national anthems in the world, but she now feels vindicated after the response it had at the World Cup.

“The melody just really invigorates people and the fact that it’s in our language is amazing as well,” she said.

“A lot of people who are not from Wales don’t realise we actually have a language so I think people are just learning about it now and finding it as inspiring as we do.”

Singer-songwriter Bronwen Lewis is also passionate about the anthem and ends each of her concerts with it.

“I’ve been singing this anthem since I could talk and what an anthem we have,” she said.

“It just gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up doesn’t it, and the goose bumps.

“There were tears during the USA game in the World Cup, definitely.”

Bronwen, who is from the Dulais Valley in Neath Port Talbot, said seeing the international response to the anthem had been “special”.

So what is it about the song that makes it so stirring?

Bronwen thinks it is a combination of the melodic Welsh language, the rousing melody and the lyrics which celebrate the language, landscape and the country’s artists.

“I think it just gets a fire going – if you’re Welsh or you’re patriotic in any sort of sense, you just can’t help it,” she said.

She also thinks the Welsh do a great job of singing it.

“Tom Jones said there’s something about the amount of rain we have here in Wales, that’s why we’re all fantastic singers, because our voices never dry up,” she said.

What’s the story behind the anthem?

The tune Glan Rhondda was composed by harpist James James in 1856 in Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The creation of the anthem was a family affair, as his father Evan James wrote the lyrics.

A week later, it was performed by Elizabeth John in the vestry of Tabor Chapel in Maesteg, Bridgend county.

Over time it gained popularity and was later included in a collection, Gems Of Welsh Melody, published in 1860.

The collection gave the song its more famous title and sold in quantities sufficient to ensure the anthem’s popularity across Wales.

James James died in 1902 and three years later, on 16 December 1905, Welsh international rugby player Teddy Morgan is believed to have led his team in singing the song in response to the New Zealanders’ haka.

This was the first time a national anthem had been sung at a sporting event.

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau slowly established itself as a popular anthem over the next four decades and was sung along with God Bless the Prince of Wales and God Save the Queen before sporting events.

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