DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ben Kabango thought about playing with his brother Theo in their garden.
“He and I always used to hit it off,” she says. Looking back now, it’s just good times.
The stakes are much bigger these days. Ben Kabango, the 22-year-old defender, is preparing for Wales’ first World Cup game in 64 years against the United States on Monday. Theo is a 20-year-old winger who is preparing to travel to South Africa for Cardiff’s game against the Sharks in the Rugby Championship.
“I think we both pushed each other because obviously when you’re both kids trying to outdo each other, you have a competitive nature,” Ben said Saturday.
Ben played rugby and football until he was about 13, then switched to football. His brother played football for a while and is now hoping to be called up to the Welsh rugby team.
“Rugby basically picked him up, I think obviously with his speed,” Ben said. “He has done well.”
Ben played in Swansea’s academy and began his professional career away from the limelight with New Saints in the Welsh League in the 2018-19 season. He plays for Swansea in the English Second Division and made the first of five international appearances for Wales in Finland in September 2020 as a second-half stoppage time substitute.
Wales reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, losing 1-0 to Brazil as Pele dribbled past Mel Charles and beat goalkeeper Jack Kelsey from close range in the 66th minute.. The Dragons were ranked 117th in 2011 and did not reach another major tournament until they qualified for the 2016 European Championships. They beat Slovakia and Russia lost to England in the group stagethen defeated Northern Ireland and beat Belgium 3-1 before losing in the semi-finals against eventual champions Portugal.
Kabango recalled watching the victory against a star-studded Belgium team.
“I was in that Cardiff fan zone just celebrating with all my friends,” he said. “We all just want that feeling again. It’s surreal to think about beating such big teams and we know we can do it.”
His parents and girlfriend travel to Qatar on Sunday, where Wales trains near downtown Doha at the Al Sadd Club Center. A slogan above the background of the interview proclaims in Welsh: “Gorau Chwarare Cyd Chwarae”, which translates to “Team play is the best game”. Players addressing the media are faced with a sign that reads: “Our land. Our history, our people.”
All but four of the players are based in the UK, so adjusting to the weather, which is in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius), is a little tough.
“If we win the first game, it will boost our confidence and hopefully it will take us a long way,” Kabango said.
Wales face Iran on Friday and then close the group stage against England on November 29.
We can’t wait for that game. I know we are looking at America first. There is always a grudge between us and England when we play.
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