Wales captain Gareth Bale. Pic: Getty Images.

Gareth Bale Bored By Football v Rugby Debate in Wales . . . He Wants Every Single Welsh Sport To Be Up With The Best

By Harry Corish

Gareth Bale believes Welsh football’s success can act as a catalyst for youngsters in any sport.

Welsh football has been on quite the journey – from languishing in 117th in the world, to reaching three out of four major finals, including the semi-final of the 2016 European Championships, and now their first World Cup in 64 years.

It is the longest period away from one World Cup finals to the next of any nation that has ever appeared.

Bale scored the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium seven years ago this Sunday, the goal that made the nation believe ahead of the European Championships in 2016.

Welsh football changed that night for the better, as the win made people believe that a small nation – their small nation – could compete against the best.

Bale recalls: “It was definitely one of those moments where if you get a result against one of the top teams, it’s that belief that you can compete at the top in your own right.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was a difficult night, they had a lot of the ball.

“But we showed that night something within us as a team and, within the fans, that took us into the Euros.

“We were able to draw back on that experience and it was a moment of change where we had even more belief that we deserved to be at the top.

“It was definitely a catalyst to what we went on to achieve.”


Seven years later, the Wales captain believes that qualifying for the World Cup can only help Welsh sport and spur more success, echoing their 2016 run.

“We want football to be popular, but we also want rugby and other sports to be popular. We obviously want as many people to play football as possible.

“It was my dream to play football growing up, but there’s some kids who want to be rugby players, so it’s not a football v rugby debate. It’s a case of, can we get football more popular and, hopefully, the Welsh rugby team makes rugby more popular.

“We want to give every kid the opportunity to play whatever sport they want to. It’s important that we at the top level do as well as possible so that Welsh sport can afford to fund all these different sports.

“Whether it is tennis, squash, golf, whatever it might be, we want to give them the opportunity to play, have as many facilities as possible to give them the best chance to represent the country and make our country better in every sport.”

Wales manager Robert Page will be hoping that Wales can get a first victory in their Nations league campaign after encouraging displays – but defeats – against Poland and the Netherlands.

“We have seen the transitions in the game against Poland with nobody who was going to be involved in the play-off final playing the 90 minutes, and, because of the final on Sunday, that had an impact on the team selection against the Netherlands, some players couldn’t go again,” says Page.


“This game is different. We are going out there to compete and win a game of football.

“We will have one eye on the World Cup and how we want to play and what we want to do, irrespective of what the opposition is.

“Whether it is Belgium or Holland we are thinking of what we need to do and what we might come up against in the World Cup and plan accordingly.

“We gave ourselves a great opportunity against a really good Netherlands side, we just have to be ruthless.

“If you give top teams half a chance it’s in the back of the net – that’s the difference from division A and B.

“But we don’t fear anybody. We are at this level because we have earned the right to be at this level. We will absolutely respect these nations, but we are ready for these challenges.

“There’s no guarantees in football but I believe with our strongest team available we would have had different results.”


Wales have only four games left before they travel to Qatar, and only an eight day turnaround between the end of the Premier League and when the squad joins up for the World Cup.

“These are our last few games in camp together. In the World Cup we will be playing against teams like Belgium and the Netherlands, so we have to be ready,” adds Page.

“Yes, we are disappointed with the result against Holland. There were a lot of positives, but looking at the bigger picture we are not just focused on these games or the World Cup, we are looking for these young players to improve and ready them for the future.

“Some of the work from the younger players was excellent against top opposition and we can take these positives going into the future.”


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