If there’s one thing that the Welsh are unanimously passionate about, it’s sports. Be it rugby, football, or even ice hockey, the residents of Wales never fail to get behind their local and national teams.
In the biggest sport in the world, Welsh players have been able to make a major imprint on the game, winning trophies all over the world and breaking records while doing so.
Many of the greatest footballers to come out of Wales hail from the areas of the nation’s two biggest cities, Cardiff and Swansea, but have moved away from their homes to etch their names into the history books of the sport.
Here, we’re revisiting the places that spawned three of Wales’ greatest ever football players.
Pentrebane: Ryan Giggs
Location: District in the west of Cardiff
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Son of Cardiff rugby union player Danny Wilson, Ryan Giggs was born in Canton on 29th November 1973. While he grew up in the suburb of Ely, per Wales Online, Giggs spent a vast amount of his time with his grandparents in Pentrebane, where he played football and rugby in the street outside of their house.
It was in 1980 that Giggs was forced to move away from his beloved Pentrebane due to his father switching to rugby league and signing for Swinton. The family moved to Manchester, where the Welshman signed up to Manchester City’s School of Excellence and was eventually seen and signed by legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.
From kicking a ball in the streets of Pentrebane, Ryan Giggs went on to score 168 goals in 963 games for Manchester United, collecting 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups, and four League Cups. He stands as the player with the most appearances for the club, playing over 200 games more than Sir Bobby Charlton.
Having played 64 games and scoring 12 goals for Wales in his playing career, Ryan Giggs is now the national team manager.
Cwmbwrla: John Charles
Location: Residential area in Swansea
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In 1931, one of the greatest Welsh sportspeople of all-time was born in Cwmbwrla, making his first steps as a footballer in Swansea. John Charles started his long journey to legendary status at Swansea Town, per ITV, but only made one professional appearance for the club’s reserve team due to his age.
In 1948, Leeds United gave the Welshman a trial, which led to him signing for the prestigious club and moving to Yorkshire. In August of 1957, having played 297 games and scoring 157 goals for Leeds, Charles was signed by Italian giants Juventus for a British record fee of £65,000, as detailed by the National Football Museum.
It was with Leeds United and Juventus that John Charles carved his legacy, guiding the English club to runners-up in the Second Division and the Italian team to the Serie A title thrice and Coppa Italia twice.
Both clubs recognise Charles as a major player in their long histories and are both in the running to have excellent campaigns this season, with Betway placing Leeds at 11/10 to win the Championship and Juventus at 13/2 to win the Champions League as of 17th of January.
John Charles and his brother Mel became national heroes, teaming up on the Wales national team. As of 2019, the Wales team has only ever qualified for the World Cup once, which was in 1958, when a 26-year-old John Charles and 23-year-old Mel Charles played for the Dragons.
Whitchurch: Gareth Bale
Location: Suburb in the north of Cardiff
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In 1989, Gareth Bale was born in Cardiff, going on to attend school in Whitchurch. While at his first school, Bale was scouted by Southampton before attending their satellite academy in Bath.
During his time in Whitchurch, Bale’s athleticism was apparent to all, with the Welshman participating in athletics, football, hockey, and rugby, according to The Telegraph. On 17th April 2006, Bale made his debut for Southampton to commence his professional career.
Less than one year after making his professional debut for Southampton in the Championship and playing 44 games for his first club, Tottenham Hotspur paid £5 million to acquire the talented left-back, with further fees if he was to be successful at the Premier League club.
As detailed by the BBC, after 203 games and 56 goals for Spurs – during which time he became a fearsome winger – Gareth Bale signed for Real Madrid for the world record fee of £85.3 million, where he now has 98 goals in 212 games for Los Blancos.
Now the team captain of Wales, Bale has become the nation’s all-time top goalscorer with 31 goals in 74 games, which puts the 29-year-old only 20 games away from being Wales’ most-capped player.
From relatively small areas in Wales, Ryan Giggs, John Charles, and Gareth Bale blossomed into some of, if not the greatest footballers to ever play for the country.