Wales proud of its UEFA Super Cup success
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The streets were buzzing, the stadium was packed and even pouring rain failed to dampen spirits; UEFA.com's Mark Pitman says the UEFA Super Cup was a triumph for Wales.
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"Did Wales and Cardiff pull it off?" asked local paper the Western Mail in the wake of Real Madrid CF's 2-0 win against Sevilla FC in the UEFA Super Cup. "Undoubtedly."
Iker Casillas was the first to get his hands on the trophy after the final whistle on Tuesday night, but locals in the Welsh capital had almost as much to celebrate as Gareth Bale made his triumphant homecoming. Just over a decade ago, the 25-year-old was kicking a ball around park pitches less than a mile from the site of the Cardiff City Stadium; his return with Real Madrid has encouraged the next generation of Welsh talent to dream of emulating such success. The excitement generated by young Welsh fans in the crowd as Bale and his star-studded team took to the field was something television cameras could never quite convey.
However, the UEFA Super Cup experience in Wales did not start and finish with the arrival and departure of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League holders. This month all three prestigious trophies have toured the principality, allowing youngsters from all corners of Wales to have photos taken with prizes the biggest names in football compete for each year. During the two-week tour, the thousands of children and families who posed, smiled and 'selfied' with the silverware became part of the event.
In the days leading up to the match, attention turned to the capital, and a change of livery to the exterior of the Cardiff City Stadium helped build a unique sense of expectation. Already a cosmopolitan city, Cardiff welcomed supporters from Madrid and Seville to its many bars and restaurants, the party atmosphere created by this Spanish armada serving as the tapas ahead of Tuesday's main course, which not even the torrential rain could spoil.
Organising and hosting such a fixture is no easy task, yet meticulous preparation from the Football Association of Wales (FAW), together with UEFA, over the last 12 months ensured it was a resounding triumph. "It's one of the greatest honours ever bestowed on Wales," said FAW president Trefor Lloyd Hughes, with the association proud to have delivered a successful event while presenting a long-term legacy that could benefit Wales for years to come.
If the feel-good factor has already helped Cardiff and Wales, on the field a sparkling double from Cristiano Ronaldo supplied the perfect culmination to all the preparations. Bale's victory was another reason for local football to be proud. "For all the major events hosted here, there always seems to be something for media or the man on the street to moan about," concluded the Western Mail. "Not here."