Why Wales fans sing Yma o Hyd and what it means

The folk song has become a favourite and is belted out at Wales football matches

Wales fans cheer their team during its match against USA at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Getty Images
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In 1983, Welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan wrote a song about his country.

It railed against oppression, and its determination not to be silenced by its English neighbour.

What does Yma o Hyd mean?

Yma o Hyd, which translates to Still Here, was written against a background of political and economic turmoil, referencing Margaret Thatcher and the closure of coal pits in the country's industrial heartlands. It also stretched further into history to the time the Romans pulled out of Wales.

It was a defiant song about Wales's culture and identity. Its voice would still be heard, in its own language, was its message.

Demoralised by defeat in the 1979 independence referendum, Iwan, a political and language activist jailed a number of times, felt Wales was being “lost”. He has said he wrote a a song to say, “in spite of everything, we're still here”.

It became a standard for nationalists and supporters of the Welsh language.

What he could never have imagined, was that almost 40 years later it would become an anthem for the Wales football team and its fans. Its chorus be heard ringing out in the crowd throughout its opening World Cup match against USA, which resulted in a draw.

What are the lyrics to Yma o Hyd?

While England fans sing Football's Coming Home, Wales fans sing in Welsh:

Cofiwn i Facsen Wledig

Adael ein gwlad yn un darn

(We remember that Macsen the Emperor

left our country in one whole piece)

A bloeddiwn gerbron y gwledydd

Mi fyddwn yma tan Ddydd y Farn

(And we shall shout before the nations,

“We'll be here until Judgement Day!)

It goes on to repeat the words:

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

(We are still here,

in spite of everyone and everything)

Why do Wales fans sing Yma o Hyd?

The song was adopted by the team in recent seasons after fans began singing it during games. The Football Association of Wales spotted the chance to connect with those supporters and incorporated it into the match entertainment.

Before Wales's final qualifying game against Ukraine this summer, Iwan, now 79, was asked to perform the song in front of the crowd — known as the Red Wall — at the Cardiff City Stadium.

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With football fans as sons who have travelled to away matches, he knew it would mean a lot to the players and fans. With more than a few tears in his eyes, Iwan stepped up to deliver an emotional performance, made all the sweeter as Wales' 2-1 victory saw them reach the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958.

He told WalesOnline afterwards: “I get quite emotional singing certain songs, especially this one. But the atmosphere and sound made it all the more special. The Red Wall was like one big choir singing it with me. It was fantastic to realise for myself in that moment what it meant to the fans — the song has almost become like an anthem to them, and what's even more fantastic is knowing that Welsh and non-Welsh speakers were singing it too.”

He continued: “The song is essentially about survival — Wales is still here and the Welsh language is very much alive. It's also about celebrating being a small nation. The Welsh football team has contributed a lot to those aspects as well.”

After the Ukraine victory, Wales's most-capped player Chris Gunter invited Iwan onto the pitch to celebrate with the team. Gunter was the catalyst for the song being taken up by the team after adding it to their prematch playlist.

“Chris Gunter started it,” said Wales manager Rob Page earlier this year. “We played it every day before training and on the coach, and that is something we have now got as our anthem. It is a big part of what we are all about. The song is very poignant. We can all relate to it. We are all passionate Welsh people who love our country.”

The surge in Wales’s on-pitch fortunes has coincided with a new era of self-confidence for its fans, and perhaps the country as a whole.

The Red Wall, a term coined by Bale when talking about the lift his team get when walking on to the pitch and seeing the fans, has its own identity, from bucket hats and retro shirts to the songs and anthems they sing.

Their numbers have grown from the brave dozens who would travel abroad in the early 2000s to thousands now.

Among the long-standing and frequently suffering has been author Tim Hartley, who has travelled the world writing about his love of football and its fans.

The Welsh language is something that unites many Welsh fans, he told The National.

According to the Welsh government’s Annual Population Survey, about 29 per cent of Welsh people, or 899,500 people, can speak Welsh to some degree.

But it punched above its weight when it comes to football supporters, many of whom come from North Wales where the proportion of first-language speakers is greatest.

The self-confident, bilingual atmosphere has not arrived by accident.

The Football Association of Wales, rare among sporting governing bodies in that it is actually popular with fans, has been at pains not to dictate how its matches should be supported.

“The feeling around football is very authentic,” said Rob Dowling, head of content and engagement at the association. “It’s run by people that really care about the game and it’s been embraced by the Welsh public.

“We use language in a really accessible way in terms of mixing it with English. It has really pulled the country together.”

That tactic was noticeable in the stands at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Monday, when behind the goals, the Red Wall sprang into voice. Wales are still here.

The ups and downs of Welsh football — in pictures

Lyrics — Yma o Hyd chorus

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Ry'n ni yma o hyd

(We are still here,

we are still here,

in spite of everyone and everything,

in spite of everyone and everything,

in spite of everyone and everything.

We are still here,

we are still here,

in spite of everyone and everything,

in spite of everyone and everything,

in spite of everyone and everything.

We are still here.)

Updated: November 22, 2022, 10:29 AM
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