Until he was 30 he had never played in the English top flight, where he only arrived this season with Bournemouth. Although he was born in England, he made the Wales national team as early as 2019, when he was playing in the Championship at Wigan, thanks to a Welsh grandfather. A year later, at Cardiff in the same second tier, he had his best season, scoring 20 goals in the Championship alone. Now he’s at the World Cup, and in Wales’ opening game against the USA, he was one of the best men on the pitch.
Life has never been easy for Kieffer Moore, who recalls a time when he had to work part-time as a lifeguard as well as a footballer.
“I’m very proud to have got where I’ve got, although my path was different to a lot of people. Pulling on the Wales shirt means a lot to me and my family,” said the striker on his debut for the Dragons three years ago.
He started football with his hometown team Torquay United, but at the age of 12 was forced to continue his career elsewhere after the small club closed its academy for children and juniors. He played for several teams in the sixth tier of English football while earning a living from part-time jobs as a lifeguard and personal trainer during the week. In 2013, he saw his first ray of sunshine when he joined Yeovil Town, with whom he played in League One and the Championship.
“It was tough, but I always believed I would make it. If you work hard, you get the reward in the end,” Kieffer, who even when working as a lifeguard, believed in his dream, would later recount: “Everyone asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I always told everyone that I was going to be a footballer and nothing would stop me from getting there. I slowly worked my way up.”
But this ‘slowly’ was to have many more ups and downs. Moore’s career has not been strictly upward. From Yeovil, he ended up in Norway with Viking, from where he returned after just 6 months, starting over in the English lower leagues. In 2016, Ipswich rescued him again from the “swamps” of small-time football, but loaned him to Rotherham. By this time, his future Wales national teammates were enjoying success at Euro 2016, and Gareth Bale, his partner in the Dragons’ attack, was already on his second Champions League win with Real Madrid.
His goals for Rotherham earned him another move to Championship side Barnsley, where he was to stay until Wigan bought him for £3m in 2019.
“I haven’t looked back since. Everything I did was with an eye to the future and what I wanted to achieve,” Moore recounted.
After a good season at Wigan, he ended up at Cardiff in Wales, where he had his best season in 2020/2021 and came to the attention of the Welsh FA.
It took some deep digging under the family tree for Moore to find a Welsh ancestry, which would see him make it under Ryan Giggs in the Dragons’ national team. He had already proved himself worthy in terms of quality, but he also had to prove he qualified legally.
Despite his middle name – Roberto Francisco – due to his family’s Italian connections, Moore has always been aware of his Welsh heritage through regular childhood visits to his maternal grandfather in his hometown of Llanrug, near Caernarfon.
“I had a lot of red tape to put up with because I couldn’t find my grandfather’s birth certificate. My mother was looking for him everywhere, the whole family was looking for him. I asked for a copy, eventually, and it took a lot of paperwork and a year to finally find it in the system. From then it was about six months before I got a summons, so the excitement was building,” the new ‘Welshman’ added.
A call-up for friendlies over the summer was followed by his debut against Belarus, with Giggs expressing after the 1-0 win in that game how pleased he was with Moore’s first game.
“When I played alongside Gareth for the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking, Wow! This is Bale! He’s a huge player who’s done so much in football!” recalled Kieffer Moore, who hasn’t been out of the Wales squad since and can now add World Cup participant to his CV, in addition to being a lifeguard!