Real Madrid CF's Gareth Bale will have the thrill of playing the UEFA Super Cup in his home city on 12 August. He tells UEFA.com he hopes it will boost Welsh football.
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It was already an honour for Wales to be awarded their first European showpiece match in the 2014 UEFA Super Cup, but that was topped off when it became clear Gareth Bale would be taking part in the game at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Bale was born in Cardiff and will be returning with Real Madrid CF when they face Sevilla FC in the Welsh capital on 12 August. He spoke to UEFA.com about what the match means to Cardiff and how it will help football's development in a country where there is stiff competition from another code.
UEFA.com: Is it very important for the next generation of Welsh footballers to be able to see the greatest players in the world going head to head in the flesh?
Gareth Bale: Yes, definitely, I think it's massive for the city. We haven't really had anything as big as that in a long time and, yes, it's one that will obviously do wonders for the city. I think it will show that Welsh football can achieve big things.
UEFA.com: What can fans expect when going to Cardiff?
Bale: Probably cold weather! No, it's a nice city, I think it's up and coming, in the last five to ten years it's improved dramatically. It's obviously a big rugby nation but Cardiff City playing in the Premier League, as well as Swansea, raised the profile of the whole of Welsh football. It's a city on the rise and hopefully it can continue to do that.
UEFA.com: Not too far away from Cardiff, in Newport, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) has built a new technical centre. What impact do you think that will have on Welsh football going forward, in developing younger players?
Bale: It's fantastic to have a great facility like that. I think every age group will be using it and, yes, to have our own private training complex is very important. You see all the other big nations having it and it's a stride forward in Welsh football. We want to keep improving and getting better, and hopefully we can actually achieve something in international football.
UEFA.com: Do you think it will translate to national team football, having that centre there to better performances?
Bale: Yes, I think it will improve everything. From Under-15s, U16s, until the first team, everybody will be using it. And hopefully it has a positive effect, something that can help us in the future.
UEFA.com: Obviously you are a proud Welshman. How proud does it make you to be a role model to young Welsh footballers?
Bale: It's massive. When I was a kid it was important to have role models in all parts of football, it encourages people, it encourages kids to play football and keep developing, and hopefully that will help in the future to develop younger kids and good players.
UEFA.com: What would it mean to Welsh football to develop more role models for future generations, more people like yourself?
Bale: It's important to have role models, especially in football. It's a rugby nation, but I think football has always been massive in Wales. Maybe five or ten years ago it was probably more football than rugby, but it kind of chops and changes now and again. But we need to produce a lot more players, and hopefully that can inspire more people to play football in Wales and we will hopefully get better in the future.
UEFA.com: Talking about your development, how would you compare yourself now to when you made your debut as a teenager for Southampton FC?
Bale: A lot different. I think physically, mainly. When I first started playing I was a little scrawny kid! I think just naturally you grow up, you fill out, you become more powerful and stronger. As the years have gone on that has happened to me. I'm just keeping working now, on every part of my game. Hopefully I can still keep improving in the future.