Gareth Bale might not have played in the Los Angeles derby on Friday night, but he made his mark with fans on either side of a pulsating game as the sun set over the Hollywood hills. Roared on by their fevered support, Bale’s new team LAFC beat David Beckham’s former franchise LA Galaxy 3-2 and signalled their growing intent to put their city-rivals in the shade. But after being introduced before kick-off to the supporters who made the match feel like a carnival with their non-stop singing and drumming, Bale was then sucked in by their passion and took to the pitch afterwards to join in.
Helped by LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in front of the north end of the stadium, the Welsh international took part in the post-match ritual for the players where they dance and then silence the crowd before punching the air while singing “L-A-F-C”. The excited fans, who are still coming to terms with being able to sign their own Galactico from Real Madrid and former Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, lapped it up. There may be those who question whether Bale going to Major League Soccer is the best preparation for Wales’ World Cup campaign in November, but with the season already in full swing and concluding before teams travel to Qatar, the scheduling is perfect.
And if he can help deliver a first MLS title to LAFC, who are again top of the Western Conference this season, his name could go down in legend. The 32-year-old said at half-time that the place already “feels like home”. With the team’s fans letting off black smoke flares prior to kick-off and downtown LA making a stunning backdrop to the new Banc of California stadium, the benefits of Bale moving to the United States are perhaps obvious.
And from a performance perspective, the Welsh captain should have no trouble making his mark in matches such as Friday’s derby where Vela and former Manchester United and LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez showed flashes of their quality.