Gareth Bale has insisted he would have “no problem” completing all three of Wales’ Group B games in nine days at the World Cup and said he recognizes the importance of wearing the OneLove captain’s armband for a shine a light on discrimination in Qatar.
The Wales captain scored a heroic stoppage-time equalizer to help Los Angeles FC win the Major League Soccer Cup but is yet to play a full game for his club. Wales face the USA next Monday before games against Iran and England, but Bale has dismissed concerns over his fitness. “I’m fully fit and ready to go,” said the 33-year-old. “If I have to play three 90 minutes, I will play three 90s.” Bale has only played 28 minutes since the end of September. He last played a full game 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 admitted that footballers “can shed light on the problems that are going on there” and Nice midfielder Aaron Ramsey said Wales “disagrees with a lot of things that are going on there”.
The Rainbow Wall, a Welsh LGBTQ+ fan group, said it would not travel to the country’s first World Cup for 64 years due to safety concerns. “For us as players, we are fully behind and support everything we can do,” said Bale. “We as footballers are the most we can do to raise awareness and it’s up to people higher up to make those decisions and hopefully make change for the better. We support everything, in terms of the bracelet we will do everything and do as much as we can to hopefully get change the right way.”
Ramsey touched on how the Football Association of Wales liaised with the Welsh Government and Fifa on the issues. “The FAW are working closely with the government, Fifa and Qatar to try and move things forward,” Ramsey said. “As players we will wear that armband and show our support, and hopefully highlight other issues there. But ultimately we are there to play football and represent our country at a World Cup.”
Wales flies to Qatar from Cardiff on Tuesday. “I feel good about 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.”