Wales captain Gareth Bale wasn’t happy about not wearing the ‘One Love’ armband in his country’s World Cup opener against the USA, but pointed out that he would’ve been sent off if he had and said it was now time to concentrate on football.
The Welsh FA were among seven European nations who backed down from the campaign created to promote diversity and inclusion, after FIFA threatened to book captains who wore the armband.Wales responded by putting rainbow corner flags on their training pitch, while Welsh FA chief Noel Mooney accused FIFA of making a “terrible decision” and said he was “absolutely furious”.
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Bale faced the media on Thursday ahead of Wales’ second Group B game against Iran, after drawing their opener 1-1 with the United States – where he was booked in the 40th minute and scored the equalising penalty late on.
“We weren’t too happy about not being able to wear it,” Bale said.
“With the sanctions that could’ve been put in place, I know people said ‘he should’ve worn it’, but I would’ve been sent off after about 25 minutes.
“Of course we support it, but we are here to play football at the same time.
“By not wearing the armband, it doesn’t mean we don’t support it. We are all for equality, trying to do the right thing and creating awareness.”
Germany were among the European countries who had planned to wear the armband.
Their players instead decided to cover their mouths for a pre-match team photo as a gesture of protest, before losing 2-1 to Japan.
“In terms of doing something else, one team has tried doing something else and the result doesn’t go the right way, then they get criticised for not concentrating on the football,” Bale said.
“For us, now the tournament has started, we really need to concentrate on the football ourselves.
“But outside of the game, if there’s anything we can do to raise awareness or support, then we’ll definitely do that.”
Manager Rob Page revealed a big boost for Wales ahead of the crucial clash with Iran, saying that midfielder Joe Allen was “fit and raring to go” after recovering from an injury that ruled him out of the opener.
“Joe’s a massive player for us and probably doesn’t get all the credit he deserves,” Bale said.
“He’s a vital cog in the way we play. To have him available for selection is a massive boost for us. He’s going to do what Joe Allen does best and cover every blade of grass on the football pitch.”
Wales are competing at the World Cup for the first time since 1958, and Friday’s game could well decide whether they progress to the knockout stages or not.
Iran were thrashed 6-2 by England – who Wales face in their final group game next week – and need a response to keep their dream alive.
Considering the significance of the occasion, Bale said he supported the idea of letting children watch the game in school.
“Being a 10am kick-off in Wales, if I was one of the teachers, I’d let them watch the game,” he said.
“It’s a historical moment in Wales, for us to be at a World Cup. It’s a mini history lesson!”
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