Euros 2016: Welsh Kiwi bursting with pride despite Euro exit

By Campbell Burnes

Wales was a football-mad nation... at least for a couple of weeks during Euro 2016.

Welsh-born Phil Kingsley Jones, who has lived in New Zealand for more than 30 years and is a rugby man to the core, was bursting with pride at the national team's dramatic run to the semifinals, bowing out 2-0 to Portugal this morning.

Kingsley Jones was sending messages back and forth via Facebook to his old buddies in Wales. With the northern rugby season having long finished and Wales' tour of New Zealand winding up nearly a fortnight ago, the footballers become the centre of Welsh pride.

Kingsley Jones was just 10 when Wales qualified for their only FIFA World Cup in 1958, reaching the quarter-finals. Two of his favourites were the Charles brothers, John and Mel, both hailing from Swansea. Alas, Kingsley Jones saw little TV footage of Wales at the World Cup, with BBC TV coverage dominated by England.

But he points out that it is somewhat tougher for Wales to qualify for World Cups compared to New Zealand's All Whites who, with a slightly bigger population and just as a great a rugby zeal, have been to two World Cups.

"New Zealand qualifies for World Cups by playing the likes of Papua New Guinea and Fiji. It's a bloody joke. Wales have to play France, Germany, England, and Portugal. So we have to play the best teams in the world to qualify," says Kingsley Jones.

"We've got a population of about three and a half million people. To make the semis of Europe is pretty bloody tremendous."

Wales, ranked 26 in the world rankings prior to Euro 2016, lowered world No 2 Belgium in the quarter-finals. That would be the equivalent of Kenya beating England in rugby (in 15s). Portugal is ranked eighth in football.

"In football, teams are more liable to tip each other over than rugby teams. Like Iceland over England. Japan beating South Africa in rugby, how often would that happen?" says Kingsley Jones, offering qualified praise for Wales. But there is little doubt that the boost for Wales, concerned about how the Brexit vote will affect them, is palpable.

"It's great for Wales. It's given the Welsh people a lift. I'm really chuffed for them. They would have sold a lot of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey shirts in the last couple of weeks, that's for sure!"

Naturally there were few tears at the demise of England in the Euro group stages.

"They always flatter to deceive. They always qualify top and then somehow they seem to fall flat on their face," says Kingsley Jones.

- NZ Herald

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