Gareth Bale Biography
Bale was born in Cardiff to parents Frank, a school caretaker, and Debbie, an operations manager; he attended Eglwys Newydd Primary School at Whitchurch. He is the nephew of former Cardiff City footballer Chris Pike. It was while at this school he first came to the attention of Southampton at nine years old, when he was playing in a six-a-side tournament with his first club, Cardiff Civil Service Football Club. Growing up his football hero was fellow Welshman and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.
Bale then attended Whitchurch High School in Cardiff. This is where, as well as football, he played rugby and hockey and was a distance runner. As a 14 year old he ran the 100 metre sprint in 11.4 seconds. Because of his superior skills, the school's PE teacher, Gwyn Morris, had to write special rules. These restricted Bale to playing one-touch football and not using his left foot. Whilst at Whitchurch, Bale trained at Southampton's satellite academy in Bath, although there was initially some doubt if Southampton would give him a scholarship due to his height.
Despite being only 16 at the time, he helped the school's under-18 side win the Cardiff & Vale Senior Cup. He left school in the summer of 2005 with a Grade A in PE amongst his GCSE results. In his final year at school, he was awarded the PE department's prize for services to sport. In the presentation, Morris commented:
"Gareth has a fierce determination to succeed and has the character and qualities to achieve his personal goals. He is one of the most unselfish individuals that I have had the pleasure to help educate."
On 17 April 2006, at the age of 16 years and 275 days, Bale became the second youngest player ever to play for Southampton (after Theo Walcott, who was 132 days younger) when he made his debut in the Saints' 2-0 victory against Millwall. On 6 August, Bale scored his first league goal, a free kick, to level the score at 1–1 against Derby County. The final score at Pride Park was 2–2.
He scored again, at St. Mary's, against Coventry City in the team's second game of the 2006–07 season with another free kick. Bale further developed his reputation as a free kick specialist when he struck the post from one against West Bromwich Albion. By 16 December 2006, Bale's goal count had risen to five, thanks to a late equaliser against Sunderland and free-kicks away to Hull and at home to Norwich City.
In December 2006, he won the Carwyn James Award for the BBC Wales Young Sports Personality of the Year, and was named the Football League Young Player of the Year on 4 March 2007. This capped what was described in the local press as an "incredible" first full season as a professional footballer in which he was one of the Saints' "most creative players even (though operating) from the left-back position whilst his defending improved immeasurably as the season progressed."
His final game for Southampton was in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final against Derby County on 12 May 2007. Bale suffered an injury during the second half, preventing him from appearing in the second leg. In total, he made 45 appearances for Southampton, scoring five goals.
On 21 August, Bale scored twice in a 2–1 win at Stoke City, the second of which was a head-high volley into the top right hand corner of the goal. On 25 August, Bale set up all four goals to help Spurs overcome Young Boys 4–0 (6–3 agg.) in a Champions League play-off at White Hart Lane. Although Assou-Ekotto had already returned from injury, Bale continued his good form and cemented his place in the starting eleven, moving forward to left wing to accommodate Assou-Ekotto at left back. On 29 September 2010, Bale scored his first Champions League goal for Tottenham in a 4–1 home win against Dutch champions FC Twente in their second game of the group stages. In recognition, he was named Welsh Player of the Year by the FAW. On 20 October, Bale scored his first senior hat trick against European champions Internazionale at the San Siro in the Champions League. Tottenham lost the match 4–3, having been 4–0 down inside the first 35 minutes and playing with ten men for over 80 minutes of the match after goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had been sent off in the eighth minute for a professional foul on Inter's Jonathan Biabiany. In the return match at White Hart Lane on 2 November, Bale provided a man of the match performance, setting up goals for Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko to earn Spurs a memorable 3–1 win.
On 4 November, Bale stated that he intended to remain at Tottenham for the remainder of his recently-signed four-year contract, despite reported interest from other clubs. On 19 March 2011, Tottenham announced Bale had extended his stay at the club until 2015.
On 17 April 2011, Bale was honoured with the PFA Player of the Year award, as voted for by his peers. In doing so, he became the only fourth Welsh player to win the PFA Player of the Year award (the others are Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs).
Style of play
Bale originally started out playing as left-back, but because of his great pace and dribbling skills, he was moved forward to play as a left-midfielder.
On 2 November 2010, after a Champions League group stage match against Internazionale, teammate Rafael van der Vaart said, "Everyone is scared of him [Bale]. Maicon is one of the best defenders in the world — he killed him."
In a report of the same match, Spanish newspaper El Mundo said: "Bale combines the height and build of an 800-metre runner like Steve Ovett with the acceleration and directness of a rugby winger like Bryan Habana. And, when he gets to the byline, he delivers curling crosses like a Brazilian. Big words? Yes, but that's what Bale is like – easily the greatest sensation in the opening month and a half of the Champions League. Ask Maicon what he thinks after the two exhibitions Bale turned in against Inter. Yesterday he left Maicon for dead and then a wily old fox like Lúcio was left in his wake like someone trying to follow the vapour trail of an aeroplane. Three goals and two assists — against the European champions. His performances have been stunning."
Bale was selected by Wales at the end of the 2005–06 season and made his international debut on 27 May 2006. He first appeared as a substitute in a 2–1 win over Trinidad and Tobago, making him the youngest ever player to play for Wales. Bale, who was just 16 years and 315 days, assisted the winning goal scored by Robert Earnshaw.
Brian Flynn commented that Bale was potentially a future star of the game, comparing his technical ability to Ryan Giggs. On 7 October 2006, Bale became the youngest player ever to score a goal for the full Welsh national team in the Euro 2008 qualification match against Slovakia with a trademark free kick. He scored his second goal for Wales in a 3–0 win over San Marino on 28 March 2007.
Bale was eligible to play for England through his grandmother, but he stated in 2007 that:
"It is an honour to play for Wales... Nobody ever got in touch with me personally from England, only through my agent."
After a long injury lay-off, he returned and started in the World Cup qualifier against Finland on 10 October 2009. On 14 October, he played a part in Wales' final World Cup qualifier by setting up David Vaughan to score the opening goal against Liechtenstein and won the free kick that led to the second, Aaron Ramsey's first at senior level.
In December 2010, Bale was awarded the BBC Cymru Sports Personality of the Year trophy.
Bale was called up to the Wales squad for the first time under Gary Speed to play against Australia on 10 August 2011. He previously missed the last four internationals with injury.
2012 London Olympics
Bale, who meets the age criteria to play in the 2012 London Olympics, said he would "love to play in the Olympics" for the Great Britain Olympic football team, in defiance of the Welsh FA.