Hernández: Gareth Bale looks to rewrite his story with LAFC

At his opening press conference on Monday, Gareth Bale explained how playing for LAFC could put him in a position to represent Wales again at Euro 2024.

Maybe even the 2026 World Cup.

“I came here to try to stay here as long as possible,” he said.

Later, in a private suite at Banc of California Stadium, Bale shared the much simpler ambition that inspired his move from European Champions League to Major League Soccer.

Bale just wanted the game to be fun again.

He said of LAFC: “It was an exciting project, something I really wanted to be involved with, something I needed for my career, not to motivate me but something I look forward to getting back into and being an environment would [in which] I was really enjoying myself again instead of feeling like there was a lot of negativity.”

The not-so-veiled reference related to his time at Real Madrid in Spain, a 10-year period during which he lost control of his career and image.

He went from being the most expensive single player in history to being an unpopular reserve compared to a parasite.

“Maybe that’s how things happened at Real Madrid,” said Bale, “but I’ve always tried to just go there to play football and be a kid trying to have fun.”

A week after his 33rd birthday, his search for the child in him brought him here.

This isn’t the Champions League and Bale didn’t pretend it was one. He giggled as he remembered his past life.

“I think it’s very different when everyone is really focused on one sport,” he said.

Gareth Bale, centre, poses for photos with LAFC Lead Managing Owner Larry Berg (left) and General Manager John Thorrington.

Gareth Bale, center, poses for photos with LAFC Lead Managing Owner Larry Berg (left) and General Manager John Thorrington during a news conference Monday.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Bale spoke of sneaking into restaurants through back doors and the anonymity he enjoyed when he came to Los Angeles during the off-season.

“When you come here, sometimes you slip around and go a little bit more unnoticed,” he said. “I think that’s a nice aspect.”

He said he’s learned to accept the downsides of playing in Europe as part of the job. The continent’s love of football eventually made him so wealthy that he was content to sign a deal with LAFC that would net him $1.3million in his first year – or about two weeks’ wages at Real Mardid.

Still, he acknowledged that he wasn’t always comfortable with the paradox of being one of the most famous players in the world’s most popular sport: while everyone knows about you, very few people do.

“Sometimes it’s not pretty, because some people judge you in ways that you might not be, and they think you’re doing things that you actually aren’t,” he said.

Gareth Bale, right, shakes hands with a fan during a press conference on Monday.

Gareth Bale, right, shakes hands with a fan during a news conference on Monday.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Part of that was the responsibility of Bale, who wasn’t more proactive in telling his story.

But some of it was also a feature of a sport that doesn’t require sales skills in most parts of the world.

Players are rarely forced to speak to the media; In fact, they are often discouraged from doing so. Bale said Real Madrid players are not allowed to give interviews without the team’s approval.

“What I did was take myself completely out of the equation and just let this monster go on and let it be what it is,” he said.

In his case, “that monster” was his public persona as “The Golfer.”

His affinity for golf has been blamed for everything from injuries to disappointing performances. His commitment was questioned and his relationship with Madrid fans was poisoned.

The perception that Bale cares more about his hobby than his job lingers to this day. When LAFC general manager John Thorrington announced Bale’s signing last month, several British reporters mentioned Bale’s love of golf, prompting Thorrington to state the obvious: “I think it’s entirely possible to enjoy golf and also wanting to win.”

So how much golf does Bale actually play?

“The perception out there is that I probably play it five times a week,” he said, “while I play maybe once every two weeks.

“I enjoy my golf. I enjoy watching it. i like to play it I really don’t play it very much. I prioritize my practice and games first, and when the moment is right I play golf like everyone else. I always try to put myself in the best shape to be 100% in a game and try not to risk that.”

That wasn’t the only point Bale clarified on Monday as he also bucked the widespread notion that he would use LAFC to prepare for this year’s World Cup in Qatar and resign shortly thereafter.

Bale did more than just join a new team. He reclaimed authority over his own history.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/story/2022-07-12/column-hernandez-new-lafc-signee-gareth-bale Hernández: Gareth Bale looks to rewrite his story with LAFC

Emma Bowman

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