Tears And Emotion As Wales Return To World Cup 2022
For thousands of Wales football fans, it is a day filled with intense emotion as they see something many feared they would never see. Tears and emotion as Wales return to World Cup 2022.
They have traveled to Qatar from all over the world to witness their team play on the largest football stage ever for the first time since 1958.
In their opening World Cup group game against the USA, skipper Gareth Bale's team will play in front of about 2,500 spectators. When the national anthem begins to play, fans acknowledge that there will be tears.
Wales fans have waited 64 years to join the elite of football, and now what has previously seemed like a pipe dream is starting to feel very real. When they spotted Wales in a Panini World Cup sticker album, unfinished business from childhood being resolved in middle life, for some, it was proof positive that they had made it.
Others are affected by the unusual cavalcade of content surrounding the Wales team. The Football Association of Wales' relentless social media blitz is complemented by TV documentaries, pages in broadsheet pull-outs, journalists who have spent careers covering other teams muttering about "indefatigable team spirit" on podcasts; footage of Gareth Bale shooing Chris Gunter away as he attempts to pose for his official photo, Ben Davies ruffling Joe Rodon's hair, the team laughing as they do stretches in the new training kit that is flying
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This nation, which is competing in its first finals since 1958 and is led by Jimmy Murphy, a Manchester United assistant, has the highest level of emotional investment of any participating country in World Cup 2022.
Instead of traveling to Belgrade with United for the European Cup, which would result in destruction on a Munich airport runway, Busby insisted that Murphy represent Wales in a World Cup qualifying play-off in Israel.
The history's pulse is also felt by Page's players. Gareth Bale, who led Wales for a year prior to his passing in 2011, says he will honor Gary Speed's memory.
If Gary was with us now, he would be proud of what we’ve achieved, not just on the pitch but off it too.
- Gareth Bale, Welsh football player
There is no way to say that Bale's June choice to join Los Angeles FC was a success; the 33-year-old captain's ability to play three games in nine days after only two starts and one 90-minute appearance in the US raises severe concerns.
The same is true for Aaron Ramsey, 31, who made his Nice debut in this month's game, only his second start since September. Page clung to thin air when he said this was a significant "confidence boost" for Ramsey.
However, it is Joe Allen, the so-called "Welsh Xavi," who played for Swansea City before switching to Liverpool, who has been keeping the devoted Wales supporters up at night. He has the power to make Wales work better than any other member of this aging triad.
Although Allen, 32, appears destined to miss the opening match against the United States, Page believes that even a small contribution against England in the final group game will be enough to maintain his position.
Ramsey doesn't easily fit into the current structure. He showed excellent insight with Bale from that position in Baku's Euros victory over Turkey. He has performed worse when playing as one of three forwards.
With these offensive possibilities and a strong defense, which Tottenham's Ben Davies is essential to, Page has cause to be optimistic about his team's chances of winning Group B. The biggest platform in football demands the extraordinary, and whether Bale can conjure something beautiful looks to be the deciding factor.
The possibility to defeat England makes the incentive more compelling. While later claiming that none of Roy Hodgson's players would make the Welsh team, Bale said that Wales had more "passion" than England before the two countries' Euro 2016 match.
I was standing right in line with him when he stepped up to take it. I was thinking, “If anyone can do it, you can”. I said a little prayer.
- Rob Page, Welsh Football manager
The same holds true for the nation's upcoming exciting adventure.
The majority of Wales fans will watch the match from home, including in fans parks located all around the nation, although some who were deterred by the cost of travel to Qatar have nonetheless made their way to warmer regions.
But for one fan who traveled by plane from Australia to Qatar to support Wales, doing so meant missing his maths GCSE, accruing significant credit card debt, leaving his mother behind in Rome, and disregarding the pleadings of his heavily pregnant wife to return home for the birth of their first child.
Although Garry George admits that as a young child, he was unaware that his nation had a team, he fell in love with football after watching Italia 90.
West Germany won the World Cup and I remember seeing on television about a year later, Ian Rush scoring a winner against them, being taken aback and thinking 'we actually have a team?' Then I thought, as we had beaten the world champions, did that make us world champions?
- Garry George, Football fan
The desire to see the team on the biggest platform first arose at this time.
Garry, who is from Cwmbran, Torfaen, never missed a home game for years. However, when Wales played Denmark at Anfield in 1999, he missed his maths GCSE in order to travel, which had an impact on his decision to become a teacher.
He made an effort to go to every away game, and he treasures the memory of his conversations with Gary Speed, Chris Coleman, and Robbie Savage after games.
These journeys came to an end in 2009 when he immigrated to Australia, but he was forced to travel again when Wales qualified for Euro 2016 - a decision that caused him to fall out with both his mother and his expectant wife Jess.
"I had only booked to stay (in France) for the group stages and arranged to meet my mother in Rome. But when we kept getting through (the tournament rounds), I left her there," he recalled.
"I was relieved in a way when we lost in the semis as my son was due and my wife in Australia kept ringing and saying 'you have to come home. I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision of whether to stay or not if we had got to the final," he continued.
He couldn't attend Euro 2020 because of Covid regulations, but this year, he arrived at this tournament with hand luggage to watch Wales play the USA and then Australia, his adopted country, play France the following day before flying out.
When Geoff Edwards, 59, checked in for his flight, he received weird reactions.
"They couldn't seem to work out why I was travelling from an Australian airport with a New Zealand passport and wearing a Wales football hat," according to Geoff.
"We all just had to come," Beth remarked.
Kegan, who is 11 years old and one of the youngest admirers to come across, has only experienced joy.
His father Gavin Waite, 43, from Newport, has a different perspective. He stated, "We have followed them through the campaign, we had to be here for this."
Along with her husband Ian, 59, daughter Lowri, 25, and her boyfriend Aled Bayley, 25, Lamona Parry, 52, of Wrexham, is at the competition.
She said: "We are 52 and 59, we just thought that we have to make it, as who knows when it might happen again." They are staying on a cruise ship that is berthed in Doha.
Cardiff residents Ann and Mike Criddle described attending the competition as a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I watched us lose to Scotland in '77 and '84 and was on my knees in front of the television when Paul Bodin missed the penalty in 1993, " said Mike, 58.