Gareth Bale says Wales on a mission to ‘inspire a generation’ with ‘historic’ World Cup 2022 adventure

Gareth Bale says Wales on a mission to ‘inspire a generation’ with ‘historic’ World Cup 2022 adventure

Gareth Bale says Wales are aiming to inspire the next generation in Qatar and described playing in a first World Cup since 1958 as a “massive piece of history” for the country.

Wales kick-off their first World Cup campaign in 64 years against the USA at Al Rayyan Stadium on Monday, and they also face Iran and England in the group.

Bale, 33, almost singlehandedly dragged his country to the finals, scoring all three goals in their wins over Austria and Ukraine in the play-offs.

The five-time Champions League winner, who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC, says the squad wants to help create a new generation of Wales internationals.

“France '98 was probably my first [World Cup] memory," said the former Tottenham and Real Madrid forward. “I remember having this pencil case with the logo on it. Watching World Cups was always disappointing because Wales wasn't there.

“As a kid not having your country in the World Cup does take that little bit of specialness away from it, so for Wales to have their country in the World Cup now will be an incredible thing for not just youngsters but the whole nation.

“Everybody has dreamt of it for such a long time, we've had so many close calls. So for us to be the team that was to get over the line was incredible for us but most importantly the best thing to do for our country.

“To grow football in our country, to inspire another generation to get more kids playing football. Because by doing that we're hopefully going to have a stronger national team in future. And in say 20 years time, if they're sat where I am now and say, 'Wales qualifying for the World Cup in 2022 was what inspired us to play football and love it', then it's an incredible story to have. I'm sure that'll be the case come 20 years’ time.”

Scores of Wales fans have been arriving in Qatar to support their country and Bale says the squad is also aware of the buzz back home.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“Obviously we're in our own little bubble here, we don't get to see too much,” he said.

“But we get sent links, videos, photos of back home in our WhatsApp group and friends send stuff over. You can see the tension building in our country: the flags are going up, the people are wearing their bucket hats more and the shirts are out.

“We feel the buzz back at home here and we're obviously going to try to do them proud like we always do, and hopefully we can celebrate with them when we win some games and score some goals. We're doing it for our country and they'll be supporting us incredibly like they always do.”

Bale continued: “It's probably the biggest honour we could do for our country, to qualify for a World Cup, something we haven't done, like everybody knows, for 64 years.

To be the team to get over the line and do that for our country is incredible.

“It's history in our country. Schools are going to stop for our games. Kids are going to miss school fortunately for them. It's a massive piece of history in our country, something we've all wanted for a long time. To be the team to get over the line and do that for our country is incredible.

“We have the support of the nation back home, no matter what happens as long as we give 100 per cent our country will love us for that.”

Bale has started just twice since moving to LA in the summer but has already said he will be able to play 90 minutes in all three group games if necessary.

Asked again about his fitness on the eve of the US match, he said: “I'm right where I want to be, I'm here the night before the first game and ready to go. We've all been training hard the last week, adapting to the heat, the time-zones, we have no excuses now. We've out all the hard work in and game-time tomorrow, hopefully we can step up and deliver what needs to be delivered.”