Bale hopes Wales’ World Cup trip inspires next generations

Nov 19, 2022, 6:02 PM | Updated: Nov 20, 2022, 8:04 am

Wales' Gareth Bale gestures during Wales' official training session on the eve of the group B World Cup soccer match between USA and Wales, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

(AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Gareth Bale thought about the significance of Wales reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

“Schools are going to stop to watch our games,” he said, beaming. “Kids are going to miss school — fortunately for them. So it’s just one of those moments that is a massive piece of history in our country, something that we’ve all wanted for a long time.”

Bale said he was ready to play in Monday’s game against the United States, the first World Cup match for Wales since Pelé scored to give Brazil a 1-0 win in the 1958 quarterfinals.

A five-time Champions League winner and three-time Spanish league champion, the 33-year-old winger long had a goal of lifting his national team to the same level he achieved at club level with Real Madrid.

Wales reached the 2016 European Championship semifinals before losing to eventual champion Portugal and qualified for last year’s pandemic-delayed Euro 2020, where it lost to Denmark in the round of 16.

Bale thought back to his earliest World Cup memory as an 8-year-old boy in 1998.

“I just remember having this pencil case with the logo on it,” he said Sunday. “In terms of watching World Cups, it was always a little bit disappointing because Wales wasn’t there. … As a kid, not having your country in the World Cup, it does take that little bit of specialness away from it.”

Bale made his international debut on May 27, 2006, at 16 years, 315 days the youngest player in Wales national team history. He has a Welsh record 40 international goals, 12 more than the previous mark set by Ian Rush from 1980-96.

“I think he’s evolved into a real leader,” Wales midfielder Johnny Williams said, “a leader of men who sets by example. … There’s no ego or big time or `I’m not going to do this or whatever,’ and then the young ones coming into the squad has to kind of abide by that.”

He started his career in 2006 with Southampton, moved to Tottenham the following year and Real Madrid in 2013. After spending 2020-21 back with Spurs on loan, he saw few appearances with Madrid last season and joined Los Angeles FC at the relatively discounted rate of just under $2.4 million.

Limited by a leg injury to two starts, he entered the Major League Soccer final in the 97th minute on Nov. 5 and tied the score 3-3 with a header in the eighth minute of extra-time stoppage time. LA went on to beat Philadelphia on penalty kicks.

“An amazing player, a legend,” United States winger Jordan Morris said. “He comes on for not that much time. It makes a huge impact.”

With a population of just over 3 million, Wales is the smallest FIFA member nation to qualify for this year’s World Cup — host Qatar received an automatic berth.

He hopes some of the Red Wall of supporters who miss school to watch Wales in the next month will follow him onto the national team years from now.

“The best thing was to do it for our country to, to grow football in our country, to inspire another generation, to get more kids playing football,” he said. “By doing that, we’re hopefully going to have a stronger national team in the future and in, say, 20 years time, if they said, all right now, Wales qualified for the World Cup in 2022 is what inspired us all to to play football and to love it then, yeah, it’s an incredible story to happen.”


AP World Cup coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving tips his cap to the crowd as he takes the court durin...
Associated Press

Arbitrator will referee Dr. J’s suit against brand developer

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge on Monday halted a lawsuit filed by basketball legend Julius Erving against a brand-development and marketing company, ruling that the dispute must go to arbitration. The lawsuit by the Hall of Fame player known as “Dr. J” stems from a 2016 agreement to sell a majority interest in […]
2 days ago
FILE - Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the second hole during the second round of the PGA Champ...
Associated Press

Tiger Woods withdraws from his tournament with foot injury

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Tiger Woods was out before he was officially back, withdrawing Monday from his Hero World Challenge with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The Hero World Challenge was to be the start of a December in golf ruled by Woods, who also has a made-for-television match next weekend, followed by the […]
2 days ago
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup ...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: World Cup highlights from Day 9

Highlights from the ninth day of the World Cup in Qatar on Monday. ___ AP World Cup coverage: and Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
2 days ago
Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze watches as players warm up prior to an NCAA college football game ag...
Associated Press

Auburn hires Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, who’s coming back to SEC

Auburn is hiring Liberty coach Hugh Freeze to take over the football program, more than five years after his resignation from SEC Western Division rival Mississippi amid both personal and NCAA scandals. A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday that Freeze has signed a memorandum of understanding with the […]
2 days ago
A pitch invader runs is caught while running across the field with a rainbow flag during the World ...
Associated Press

Portugal advances to last 16, beats Uruguay 2-0 at World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo wheeled away in celebration, acting as though he had scored once again at the World Cup. Not this time. Instead, it was Bruno Fernandes eventually credited with the goal that set up Portugal’s 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday, advancing the team into the last 16. Fernandes curled in […]
2 days ago
FILE - Jackson State coach Deion Sanders gets his team's attention during the Southern Heritage Cla...
Associated Press

Deion Sanders says report of job offer from Colorado is true

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Deion Sanders said Monday that a report stating Colorado has offered him its head coaching job is true and he has also received interest from other schools. The Jackson State coach didn’t say whether he’s considering any of the opportunities, including trying to turn around the Buffaloes’ beleaguered program. Sanders didn’t […]
2 days ago
Bale hopes Wales’ World Cup trip inspires next generations