A Thread Through the Stories of Cymru Match Day Posters 

As Cymru prepare to play the Republic of Ireland next week, fans will be looking forward to what is quickly becoming a tradition for all Cymru National Team matches, the illustrated match day poster on social media. 

The posters are full of easter eggs and are drawn by illustrator and artist Mike Miles-Boardman, who successfully combines art, sport and storytelling together to create unique pieces.

Here, Miles-Boardman explains the creative thinking behind each one and explains the easter eggs:

UEFA European Qualifiers – Group D 

After Cymru’s historic World Cup, looking back at the content the style had been quite historical, intricate, gorgeous of course, but quite serious. I thought, ok let’s cheer things up and remember how great following Cymru can be. 

POW! Colour, the bucket hat, it’s all part of the journey, let’s reset and enjoy ourselves. Being Welsh is brilliant! Showing the teams we were playing in Group D on the bucket hat was a new way of showing the information in a relatable way. I have now seen bucket hats with these badges actually on.

USA v Cymru, 9 July 2023, PayPal Stadium San Jose

When I heard Cymru were playing in Cali, I was very happy. Surfing, palm trees, cool Cali vibes. Wait, Cymru in Cali. Lovely stuff. I did a bit of research to see if there was any early Welsh migration there but couldn’t find much. Ok, let’s keep this simple. Fishlike surfing. Done. I tried to make the wave look like a C and that Fishlock knew how to surf (I’m still not sure if she can. Porthcawl isn’t that far from Cardiff, and she plays in the States). Taking inspiration from traditional Cali tourist posters this was so fun to do. We added Californian flowers to go with the daffodils and after it was posted, it was even suggested the FAW sell Cymru branded surfboards. 

Once we opened this style door, it was quick steps to filtering it through all the content needed for the trip. 

I am proud of the surf substitution artwork. The idea you are waiting for, a wave, went nicely with waiting to come onto the pitch and catching a special moment. 

I’m also particularly proud of the Golden Gate bridge and the “Gareth Bale Bridge” joining together. I felt quite clever. The next time I went to Cardiff to visit the FAW I took a picture of the Severn Bridge roughly the same time they took a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge for me. Lovely stuff!

Cymru v Korea Republic, 7 Sep 2023 19:45, Cardiff City Stadium

“Mike, we need match day posters for the upcoming international games, what have you got?” read the message the FAW. I look up from my laptop. What have I got?

The first fixture is Korea Republic at home. I have just come back from a Korean restaurant in London that I love. Yangnyeom chicken (양념치킨). It’s crazy good. Ok, so maybe we see if there is a Korean restaurant in Cardiff. It would be good for the local business and show how diverse Cymru and Cardiff is. Search it on google and boom, ‘KIMCHI’ restaurant, it’s the best rated with all the stars. I ring them to make sure the sign on the restaurant isn’t offensive (no idea why it would be, but I like to be thorough). The person on the phone didn’t really understand what I was asking (to be fair it’s odd an illustrator ringing saying they want to draw your sign). They started to explain the Korean flag to me and I thought you know, it’s fine, there is a deadline, draw, draw, draw!

So, the artwork was posted on matchday and it had instant engagement. I was thinking, ‘wow my art is good’ but 300 retweets for a match day poster good? Maybe. You are good Mike! But no. The sign is printed in Chinese, which is definitely not Korean and the Korean twitter community, rightly, pointed it out. Mercifully, people pointed out I literally copied symbol for symbol from the sign, and twitter self-corrected. One match day poster done, one minor international fracas. Who’s next? 

Latvia v Cymru, 11 Sep 2023, 19:45, Skonto Stadions

Before I went to the Cymru v Korea Republic home game to try a live art experiment after giving Kimchi their match day print, I came across two lovely Wales Away lads who talked to me about what it was like going to away games with Cymru. To repay them for sharing their stories, I drew them in the Latvia match day poster. They emailed from Latvia a day before the game telling me where the fans were headed, so I drew a landmark they would pass on their way. 

You will see on the one fans leg is the ‘Brooks will tear you apart’ artwork I had done previously. Details! It would be a pretty painful tattoo to have actually. But this was the first time I thought to add real fans into the artwork and it felt right. 

As another easter egg, the same pigeon that was in the Cymru v Korea Republic artwork also features. It travels to Wales away games too! 

Iceland v Cymru 22 Sep 2023, 19:00, Laugardalsvöllur

For Cymru’s visit to Iceland it was hard not to draw the beautiful scenery surrounding the stadium. Of course an inclusion of the iconic Northern Lights, but detailed in Red to signify Cymru’s arrival.

When detailing the match date information, it’s important these are detailed in Cymraeg to further celebrate the Welsh language. You will also see the name of the Icelandic stadium are detailed in the landscape. As well as a special section of the Red Wall, celebrating the faithful fans from Wal Goch Y Menywod who are there home or away. 

This did make me more determined to include detailed fans in the next Cymru women’s match day poster. 

Cymru v Denmark 26 Sep 2023, 19:15, Cardiff City Stadium

As I was thinking of ideas, I was listening to the Socially Distant Sports Podcast. Three Welsh men, talking about sports and Wales. It’s a wonderful listen and I remembered the documentary Elis James did about Welsh football and thought, there, there is a fan. Draw, draw, draw. 

A quick google about Denmark and Cardiff leads you to Brod. Danish people settling in Cardiff, making awesome bread, winning more awards than Jordan James plaudits. I got in touch with them to see if they had any special cakes/pastries for the window that they wanted adding and they were very lovely (which is becoming a theme). When the artwork was posted it did so well, BBC Radio Cymru interviewed the owner of Brod, Betina, before the match. She said I may or may not get free pastries for life (I didn’t). But a huge tick in the helping local business box. 

The seagull is included to add drama to the situation and allow three people to be stood outside, stationary, for a plausible reason. 

Researching classic Danish shirts was fun and the young girl in the window with the rainbow bucket hat is a fan that recently met the women’s team at a training session with her school and had shared with the FAW that it was the ‘Best Day Ever’. When it was posted, the young fan’s mother recognised her and said she loved it, printed and framed it. The best review possible. Having people recognise themselves is a lovely idea to explore. I thought I should lean into that more for the next one. 

Cymru v Gibraltar 11 Oct 2023, 19:45, The Racecourse Ground

There are lots of recognisable faces here! We all know the triumph of ‘Welcome to Wrexham’, and Stok Cae Ras was hosting the Cymru v Gibraltar game. Easy. Here is the list of things featured:

  • The hanging basket holds the national flower of Gibraltar, Iberis Gibraltarica. 
  • The monkey in the window is from Always Sunny Season 15 episode 4 sat opposite Will Ferrell. 
  • Gibraltar, Cymru, USA and Canada flags hung on a wall covering the new floodlights and being walked across by the Gibraltar native monkey, Barbary Macaques.
  • Rob and Ryan walking out of The Turf, with Ryan sporting the Cymru Away kit. The famous photo of the duo when Wrexham got promoted as a silhouette in the crowd of fans.
  • The Gibraltar rock is formed in the sand from the construction truck, which also features a sandcastle version of the castle on the Gibraltar flag.
  • The crowd also features Dave Astell, the Gibraltar International who played for Wrexham, the Welsh Journalist Thomas Wynne Lewis and a Deadpool fan.

Several Wrexham supporters who feature in the show are also included. Jacko, holding the flag, a legend Wrexham supporter who has sadly passed. Wayne Jones – The Turf Manager, Julie Birrell, Kerry Evans, Wrexham FC Disability Liaison Officer and Annette Gardener. We have been chatting on Twitter and she is, again, so lovely! Millie The Wrexham Super Fan was added very late the evening before posting as I had just watched the Welcome to Wrexham episode about her and she had to be included!

This artwork had a great reception! I sent prints to Wayne at the Turf to give to the people in the photo, and he is selling some that will be signed by Ryan for charity. Good stuff. I am still expecting a call from Ryan about getting a signed copy from me (flick of my hair). 

Cymru v Croatia 15 Oct 2023, 19:45, Cardiff City Stadium

I rang the Croatian embassy every day for a week but couldn’t get through to anyone. I even reached out to professors of Slovak history at several Universities, as there didn’t seem to be much online about Croation Cymru history, but no such luck. I thought this one was always going to be hard, but there were a few saving graces. 

Croatian legend, Davor Šuker was appearing at a Wal Goch festival the night before, so I included him carrying a large flag. I wanted to have the idea of people arriving from everywhere, so the station square works with that, combined with the famous Croatian red and white square pattern. It is a slight leap to think the colours will shine through the flag onto the squares of Cardiff Station Square so I decided to fill up the image so that it’s not too noticeable. But what to fill it up with? Kids from both teams playing hopscotch together… that’s something you can do with squares. The scarf and hat sellers are always about, I can put the previous games debutants on there. Croatian polo caps are a thing!

And then I heard about George Berry, Rosheen and Eleeza Khan, who also featured at the festival and are doing wonderful things for Welsh football. That gave the image further meaning and representation. Add pigeon. Done. Nächste!

Germany v Cymru 27 Oct 2023, 16:45, Rhein-Neckar-Arena

And then for something completely different. The German artistic movement ‘Bauhaus’ inspired Sophie Ingle bicycle kick. 

This was fun but hard to make work. I definitely felt I went too niche. There is lovely history with Germany and Wales, including the origins of Wrexham Lager and other university ties, but this was a brighter more colourful idea. 

If you look closely, unfortunately the angle of the kick doesn’t really work, but just don’t look too closely. This match day poster was well received online and it was even shared by a few German designers and lecturers. 

Denmark v Cymru 31 Oct 2023, 17:00, Viborg Stadium

This one made me cry. Adding Millie the Wrexham super fan, who has autism, to the Gibraltar artwork, started the conversation about Cymru Goalkeeper Safia Middleton-Patel who had then recently shared that they had autism, and the FAW were really keen to have this awesome step recognised.  

Cymru camp roommates Safia and Esther Morgan take Lego with them to international camps and rather beautifully, Cymru were playing at the home of Lego, Denmark at the next game. Draw, draw, draw. I created Safia and Esther as Lego and included the autism support symbol on Safia’s glove. 

When the illustration was published, Owain from the FAW sent me a video of both players being shown the artwork for the first time, which showed Safia with tears in her eyes and that caused me to well up. You could only ever wish to create something that can mean that much to someone. Small connections and acts will save the world!

Armenia v Cymru 18 Nov 2023, 14:00, Republican Stadium after Vazgen Sargsyan

For this match day poster I included the elements that celebrated Armenian culture including Armenian tiles, balcony from a famous hotel, Armenian foods and landmarks from the capital. 

But this artwork was all about representing the struggles against cancer of two important people in the Welsh football community. The musical chords in the background are the song Joy Division ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, which is a nod to ‘Brooks Will Tear Us Apart’ and defeating cancer. 

Cymru v Turkey 21 Nov 2023, 19:45, Cardiff City Stadium

Turkey was the last home game for Cymru men in 2023, staged at Cardiff City Stadium. The initial artwork was used as a call to action to fan’s to get down to the stadium early with the chance to be included in the match day graphic, I would be drawing later that evening. The little boy included in the original was inspired by the viral video of the child screaming cheering Cymru on out in Qatar and I wanted to represent the next generation, going to support Cymru no matter what. 

Before kick-off on the very cold evening I went around the stadium and drew fans in poses of goal scoring highlights from the campaign. I particularly loved drawing the well-dressed woman mimicking Harry Wilson’s headed goal!

Cymru v Iceland 1 Dec 2023, 19:15, Cardiff City Stadium

Another highlight of this creative campaign for me was my work with the Icelandic embassy. I gave them a ring and they were very receptive to me asking them about what we could draw to commemorate the Cymru v Iceland match. 

Drifta from the Icelandinc Embassy suggested the grey dragon from Iceland’s coat of arms. They have a lovely story about the four guardians. This allowed the rest of the drawing to be easy. Nordic wood cutting style, constellations of a bull, fighting dragons. 

It fell together well and it became my favourite piece stylistically. 

Cymru v Germany 5 Dec 2023, 18:30, Swansea.com Stadium

As Germany travelled to Wales, I thought it would only be right to dip back into the Bauhaus style again. 

With this being the first Cymru women’s game in Swansea since 2018, it was great to feature Swansea native and Cymru midfielder Rachel Rowe in this artwork. 

As the last game of Cymru’s UWNL campaign I felt it was right to create a bright and confusing artwork. You have to work hard to get to the end, but it is worth it in the end. Also drawing a Swan is always fun.

All of this happens because the FAW team want to tell the stories of fans and use the Cymru platform to help. An inspiration to what can be done with vulnerability, confidence and being brave enough to press post. I could not be prouder to draw for them and for Cymru. 

And thanks to these artworks doing well, the FAW asked me to be interviewed at half time of the Cymru v Turkey match with 35,000 Wales fans in the stands. It was cold or I was nervous, but shaking a little, but I held it together and I think it was possibly hilarious/competent/acceptable half-time fodder. 

This could be the best achievement of my career. My uncle Eryl passed away a few years ago. A very proud Welshman who could trace anything back to Welsh origin. Before he passed, he sang in a choir (Cor Meibion Goronwy) on the pitch before a Welsh Rugby game. As I walked onto the pitch I wished I could have been able to tell him what I was doing, I know he would have been proud – my fellow Cymru pitch invader. Could you say I’ve represented Wales in Drawing? Not really. Am I going to? Yes. Yes, I am. Cymru am byth.

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