The date was September 12, 2009. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur. The scoreline showed a 3-1 victory for United at Old Trafford. Another game. Another loss. The losing streak for this talented left back was on the rise. After the match Sir Alex met, the then manager of Spurs, Harry Redknapp about this 20 year old lad’s odd 24 games losing streak. Twenty four appearances for the club and he had never finished on the winning side. ‘I don’t know if you can play him now,’ said Ferguson. He felt may be the boy was jinxed or cursed.
“Alex was big on superstitions and I am still not sure to this day whether he was joking or not, but it was clearly a huge topic.” said Harry in an interview during EURO 2016. I am no footballer, but I can somewhat imagine the immense pressure this young guy would’ve been going through. The whole footballing world was talking about him, but not how good he was or how he played but it was about how his presence might have turned into an ill omen for the club.
When the blame for every game that goes wrong falls on your shoulder, it’s tough. He had come with a reputation of being a set piece specialist and a pacey left back at a cost of around nine million pounds. But injuries and then that spell of badluck had made many tag this lad as a failed transfer. But he had something else in mind. Redknapp unlike the others where pretty adamant about the qualities of this youngster and to some extent even short on options. He had to change the narrative around Bale.
Two weeks later, Tottenham were leading Burnley 4-0 at White Hart Lane when Redknapp introduced him as an 85th-minute substitute for Aaron Lennon. Finally, his run of misfortune was over as Robbie Keane added another one to make the scoreline 5-0. After a run of 24 games of misforture, curse or jinx he had finally tasted victory. Redknaff kept reinforcing the pattern to the get the monkey of this youngster’s back. He finally tasted victory for the first time as a starter in a league game in the 2–0 win over London rivals Fulham on 26 January 2010. Things slowly started getting better.
The 20 year old crept his way upwards from the rock bottom he had hit. But still, “He had to get tougher,” Redknapp said. “That was his main problem. He was one of those players who if he got a little knock or niggle in training, he couldn’t shrug it off. That becomes very frustrating for a manager. In the end you’d think, leave him, let him get on with it, he’s soft.” He worked hard, on his fitness, his physique. “He put in the work, he began to stand up for himself”. The output of his hardwork was evident. He was named the Barclays Player of the month for April 2010 with goal in North London Derby against Arsenal and a ‘Man of the match’ performance against eventual champions Chelsea. He was progressing thick and fast. Turning out to be the talent that he was supposed to be.
Then on 20th October 2010, San Siro happened. Tottenham were 4-0 down and a player less within the first 35 minutes of the game against Inter. And then Gareth BALE happened. An incredi-Bale turn of events. The 21 year old Welshman registered his first senior hattrick against the then European Champions. It was night to remember. The 21-year-old Wales international ran almost 50 yards down the left before firing an angled shot past Julio Cesar for a sensational first goal. It remained 4-1 until the final two minutes, when Bale left Zanetti chasing shadows and scored an almost identical second. And the winger kept alive what had seemed an impossible task when he was well positioned on the left of the area to rifle in his hat-trick. But, what could have been the most incredible comeback in the history of football just fell short. But the left back from Welsh had made his mark.
Then in the return leg of that fixture against Inter Milan, the Welsh wizard again created havoc. Maicon was supposed to be the best right back then. But the 21 year old left back, left him chasing shadows through out the match. By the end of the match Maicon must have been very familiar with the jersey number at the back of Gareth’s shirt. Courtesy the Welsh wizard Spurs won the match 3-1. He was awarded the “Man of the Match’ for his performance and was clearly showing signs of the world class player he was yet to become. April 2011, Bale was honoured with the PFA Player of the Year award. With the performances the accolades and prizes were filling his trophy cabinet.
On 28 April 2013, the Welshman won both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year after lighting up the Premier League stage in the 2012–13 season. A week later, on 2 May 2013, he was awarded the FWA (Football Writer’s Association) Player of the Year Award, making Bale one of only two players who have won all three in the same season, the other being Cristiano Ronaldo, who won them in 2007. The uncanny similarity between them, I falling in love yet again. Going through his career, documentaries, vines just hoping and praying that he would join our Mecca.
September 1st, 2013- Every prayer was answered. Gareth Bale was Real Madrid bound. I was ecstatic, without limits, just happy. I can barely explain now. The love affair continued. As if it was written in the stars. Gareth Bale had joined Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of 100.8 million Euros. He was going to sport the number 11 jersey. But with that huge transfer fee came the doubters. I knew it was bound to happen. Even Ronaldo faced it. But I knew him. I knew he was a fighter, he wouldn’t go down without a fight. And fight he did.
The first half of his first season, with injuries and the new conditions were mediocre to say the least. On his first El Classico debut he came on as a substitute only to draw some media criticism. But soon he was up and running with world class performances against the likes of Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano, Galatasaray sending his doubters back into the closet. With each passing day making me feel an inch prouder.
16th April, 2014 . It was two nights before my birthday, and all I had wished for was a Copa Del Rey final victory in an El Classico. But without Cristiano it was a tough climb. It had to be HIM. The warrior I had been worshipping, and his time was now. And he proved it WAS. Five minutes to go before the end of regular time, the game was drawn level at 1-1 and then magic happened. A Barça attack broke down deep in Madrid territory and the ball was quickly slipped to Bale, who, from the half-way line, hurtled forward, playing the ball past Bartra, almost being barged out of the pitch and running on to it again and into the box. As Pinto came out to meet him, he kept his composure and slid the ball under him and into the net! It was majestic. Tears and joy knew no bound for me. He had proved every one wrong, every one who asked me “Why Bale?”.
24th May 2014 – Another historic night for every Madridista around the world, and more so for me, as Love, had score a 110th minute goal to seal the La Decima. It was majestic. Every doubters had turned into fans now. And somewhere in Kolkata a boy was basking in the glory of idol, as if it was his. He was the first Welsh player to score in a European Cup/Champions League final. Records were slowly but steadily being made. He finished his debut season with 22 goals and 16 assists. Statistics to be appreciated keeping in mid it was his first season.
Then unfolded the 2014/15 season. Another final. This time of UEFA Super Cup and again he delivered. But from then on injury filled, lacklustured performances, I was scared what it was heading to. The El Classico on 23rd March 2015 was a bitter result for the team. And more memorable for the activities from some of the fellow Madridistas after the match. Bale’s car was attacked. Clearly Madridistas weren’t happy and two of them stoned Bale’s car after the match. I saw the video. I was sad, ashamed. But I had tears when I noticed Bale had no idea what those offenders had in mind. He saw them, and was trying to wave at them, when the assaulted his bentley. That was a disgustful event. But I knew if anyone could answer them it was the warrior that I had seen back in Spurs. Rising up from the low or rather lowest. Many ask me, “ Why all of a sudden Bale?”. I tell them that he, he wasn’t a poster boy of a major european club. He had the taste of success and the next moment he was thrashed into the rock bottom of failure. But he stood up. Every time those doubters thought he wouldn’t, he DID. Football is somewhere he attracted me, but at personal level, as an idol, an inspiration, I feel in love.
Happy 27th Birthday Gareth Frank Bale. You’re an inspiration on and off the field for me. I look up to you Gareth. Every step you take on the field makes me relive the fight you have been through. We all know how that bad patch ended. A “Man of the Match” performance to win the La Undecima. Carrying Wales into and through the EUROs. He has established himself as a man of the finals. Scoring or assisting in every final he has played for Real Madrid. The hairstyle you sport, that man bun, it’s like that of a Samurai, just perfecting your warrior look.
I am proud I could follow you so closely. So kind and humble of a man. A perfect family man and an even more perfect father. Sometimes looking up to a player is just isn’t about football but it’s more than that. It’s the kind of idealogy and characterisation he stands for. Gareth you define a gentleman for me. I don’t want you to know me but just know that someone out there is always proud of everything you do, and when you’re down, he is right there praying those dark cloud pass away. I can’t ever thank you enough for the motivation, inspiration and idol that you’ve been to me.
Once again Happy Birthday, Love.
Thank You for Everything.
Your fan? Nope, worshiper!
I BELIEVE IN YOU!
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