By Sam Baggot
The Great Welsh Varsity is an unparalleled staple of life at Swansea University. Ask any sportsman or sportswoman on campus about the significance of this day and I’m sure they will not hesitate to inform you of their pre-match training, and the anti-Cardiff chants that they have arguably spent just as long practicing.
But for every eager player and sports fan there is another, far more oblivious, type of Varsity fanatic: the casual spectator. These are the same spectators you will witness during the 6 nations adopting their housemate’s spare welsh jersey, poorly mouthing along to ‘Hymns and Arias’ and constantly watching the crowd to know when it’s appropriate to cheer, and when to throw cans at England fans. You see, for the casual spectator, the Great Welsh Varsity is not just a glorified sports day. The Great Welsh Varsity signifies two important factors of what it means to be a Swansea University student; it’s never too early for a jagerbomb, and a ‘we hate Cardiff’ related chant. It’s this passionate distain for our counterparts along the M4 and our unfaltering love for this ugly, lovely town we call home that drives the casual spectator to the sports village to mindlessly cheer on our boys and girls in green.
So, let’s say you’re not as aware as you’d like to be regarding the difference between a ruck and a scrum, or the ins and outs of the offside rule but have a green fire burning in your belly that just has to be let out. How can you successfully integrate yourself into this cult of green without looking like a complete idiot?
Well, before I go on, allow me to ease your mind on such matters; you are not alone in these concerns. So, here is your definitive, beginner’s guide to the Great Welsh Varsity for the casual spectator. Pens at the ready kids, you will need to take notes.
What to wear (and how to wear it)
This one is simple; wear you green varsity T-shirts provided when you collect your tickets, and wear them with pride! These T-shirts not only act as an easy indicator between friend and foe, but they also make for excellent bed wear for years to come (washing the sweat and Coors lite out of them first is advised). I am sure there will be those amongst you that will feel the urge to ‘customise’ these T-shirts to show off a touch more collar bone or maybe to fashion a Rambo-esque headband out of spare sleeve. While this is allowed, do be wary; once you go in with the scissors, there is no turning back. Make sure the Rambo look is for you by practicing on spare t-shirts lying around from freshers. I am certain you will agree that it is not. As for everything else, don’t let a bit of sunshine fool you, this is Wales after all. Prepare for rain, pray for blue skies.
Dealing with the crowds
(If you’ve ever attempted to make your way to the bar at Tooters, feel free to skip this section)
Each year, Varsity draws in a crowd of over 10,000 students for the finale at Liberty (or Principality) stadium. It is therefore fair to assume that a large fraction of these supporters will be packing the sports village for the daytime events to cheer on their chosen side, sandwiches and beer in hand. With this in mind, if there are any specific events that have caught your eye, you have a housemate on the football team for instance; claim your spot as early as possible. Make sure you have a pee-buddy too; else you’ll spend the next half hour on your own trying to crawl under peoples legs to find you friends. Trust me, I speak from experience here.
Why is everyone cheering?
A frequent issue the casual spectator faces in nearly all sporting arenas. Common answers are; somebody scored, somebody is close to scoring, a penalty was awarded or a fight has broken out. The easiest way to navigate this tricky area is to keep a close eye on your fellow spectators reactions (another benefit of the green t-shirt).
Here are a selection of responses and how to read them:
Know your chants
Knowing a good chant is the easiest way to come across like you know exactly what’s going on. No doubt you will pick up more and more of these Cardiff protest songs throughout the day, with steadily increasing levels of profanity. However, to start off a chant yourself is an achievement that will solidify your position amongst the diehard Green and White army. So, here are a few of the Swansea chant greatest hits to start off your day:
Firstly, the simple yet effective:
We hate Cardiff, we do…
We hate Cardiff, we do…
We hate Cardiff, we dooooo…
But Swansea we love you!
Followed by the classic:
Cardiff Uni’s falling down, falling down, falling down
Cardiff Uni’s falling down, poor old Cardiff
Build it up with green & white, green & white, green & white,
Build it up with green & white, Swansea Uni!
And the stirring, yet over all more specific:
Swansea, oh Swansea, uni said I
Standing outside Fulton, until the day I die
Take me down to Sketty, oh way down by the sea
Where I will follow, Swansea… Swansea uni!
So, you’re now armed with your essential chants, you’ve found yourself a pee buddy, and you’re ready to battle the crowd dressed proudly in green. It’s time to face the Great Welsh Varsity, safe in the knowledge that while you may not know ‘exactly’ what’s going on, odds are that neither does the person standing next to you, and that’s okay as long as you shout louder than Cardiff.