David Beckham: illusionist or one of the great men?
Against Greece on October 6, 2001 when England needed to draw to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, David Beckham was the key that unlocked the door. People remember the last gasp free-kick but what about his never say die attitude, his consistent galloping all over the pitch, his persistent eagerness to win the ball and set England rolling, his heroic urgency to single-handedly drag his team and nation out of the hole?
In the club game his CV shines. Six Premier League titles and a Champions League crown with Manchester United; a La Liga medal with Real Madrid and four years when he was without doubt the most valuable outfield player among a squad of world class talents, inspiring the club to the title in 2006. Now, he has added membership of Italy’s greatest sporting institution to the equivalents in England and Spain. Pitching up to a squad filled with players of the quality of Kaka, Pato and Seedorf, he has excelled and wowed them all. How many British players can say they have done the same? Not only to take the risk of experiencing a new culture, a new language and new footballing landscape, but to have the aptitude and intelligence to make these moves a success? Out of the so-called ‘Golden generation’ of English footballers, Becks is the only one.
So many English players are content to chug along in the Premier League, picking up their hefty wage packets, failing to develop their craft away from these shores. Would Steven Gerrard not benefit from experiencing the more technically advanced and intricate Spanish game? Could this be the one element that has made him fall short at international level? Adding guile to his already outstanding attributes could turn one of the best players in the world into the best player in the world. Michael Owen, a great player in his day, took the risk. This risk may not have paid off, but at least he had the courage and inclination to give it a go and were it not for his suspect hamstrings and knee ligaments, he would have returned a better player.
The ‘greatness’ of a player is not restrained within the insular boundary of the football pitch. What he does off the pitch should be considered as well. In this department David Beckham stands alone. He refused to bite at the England fans when they shouted “May your son die of cancer” in the aftermath of the 1998 World Cup disaster. He turned a blind eye to thousands of opposition supporters who screamed obscenities and death threats at his wife and family year after year. When his face was cut and his pride dented by the flying boot of Sir Alex Ferguson in February 2003, he declined to point the finger. When he was banished to the reserves in his final year at Real did he kick up a stink and complain at the undoubted unfairness of his situation? No. He kept his head down, trained harder than ever, uttered not a word against his club and somehow managed to make the most stubborn and hard-nosed manager in world football eat humble pie.
Contrary to popular belief, David Beckham was the most galactic of the galacticos on the pitch, but the greatest of earthlings when he walked off it. A humble, polite and unselfish man, his work for charity and unfaltering decency have put the majority of his fellow footballers to shame. Both in Italy and Spain he is revered as a true English gentleman. If he is not held in quite such esteem within his own land, perhaps it is because the majority of his countrymen no longer know what an English gentleman is?
Perhaps they are so racked with envy, so disgusted and appalled that one man could be simultaneously so talented, so rich and so humble that their meagre minds are incapable of disguising their contempt?
Some people say that David Beckham was never a great player, merely a good one – someone who hoodwinked the world into believing that he was deserving of accolades and success. I disagree. David Beckham was and always will be a great player, a great professional and above all, a great man.
David Beckham, one of the great men!