Gareth Bale has insisted he would have “no problem” completing all three of Wales’s Group B games in the space of nine days at the World Cup and said he recognised the importance of wearing the OneLove captain’s armband to shine a light on discrimination in Qatar.
The Wales captain scored a heroic stoppage-time equaliser to help Los Angeles FC win the Major League Soccer Cup but is yet to play a full match for his club. Wales face the USA next Monday before games against Iran and England but Bale has assuaged concerns over his fitness. “I’m fully fit and ready to go,” said the 33-year-old. “If I need to play three 90 minutes, I’ll play three 90s.” Bale has played only 28 minutes since the end of September. He last played a full match against Poland on 25 September and before that against Austria on 24 March.
Qatar has been the subject of criticism for its stance on same-sex relationships, which are illegal in the country, and by Amnesty International for its human rights record and treatment of migrant workers. Bale acknowledged that footballers could “shed a light on the problems there going on” and the Nice midfielder Aaron Ramsey said Wales “disagree with a lot of things going on over there”.
The Rainbow Wall, a Welsh LGBTQ+ fan group, has said it will not travel to the country’s first World Cup for 64 years owing to safety concerns. “For us as players, we’re fully behind and support everything we can do,” Bale said. “Us as footballers, the most we can do is raise awareness and it’s for people higher up to make those decisions and hopefully make change for the better. We support everything, in terms of the armband we’ll be doing everything and doing as much as we can to hopefully get change in the right way.”
Ramsey touched on how the Football Association of Wales had liaised with the Welsh government and Fifa over the issues. “The FAW has been working closely with the government, Fifa and Qatar to try and move things forward,” Ramsey said. “As players, we’ll be wearing that armband and showing our support, and hopefully highlighting other issues over there. But ultimately we’re there to play football and to represent our country at a World Cup.”
Wales fly to Qatar from Cardiff on Tuesday. “I feel good in myself and I’m really looking forward to being out there and representing my country on the big stage,” Ramsey said. “You can feel the buzz around the place – every Welsh person is buzzing at the moment. Hopefully we can go out there and give a good account of ourselves.”