A profile of David Beckham, the shy boy who became the world's most famous soccer player and his love/hate relationship with the public and his rollercoaster-ride with the tabloids, their front-page favorite.
David Robert Joseph Beckham was born on the 2nd of May 1975, in Leytonstone, London, England, and if this was a movie commercial, I guess it would say: "He was born to be a soccer player!" - Because that is what he always wanted to be.
His talent was obvious at an early age, but talent alone is not enough, because the world is full of talented people who didn't become anything. But his father would make sure David's talent wasn't wasted, as he was doing a lot of practicing with his son, especially passing and crossing the ball - the very trademark of Beckham today: the pinpoint accurate crosses.
All this training was soon to pay off. In 1986, aged 11, David Beckham won a Bobby Charlton Soccer Skills Award. The trophy was presented at Old Trafford; a place that would later become like another home to David. Also included in the prize for winning the Soccer Skills Award was a trip to FC Barcelona to train with them for two weeks under Terry Venables, Barcelona’s coach at that time.
The Dream Comes True Naturally, Beckham's talent didn't go unnoticed for long and he was invited to have trials with Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur's School of Excellence, but it was Manchester United that was the lucky winner in securing the signing of David Beckham as a trainee in 1991. Well, actually it wasn't because of luck, because David had always wanted to be a United player. And it wasn't just David who wanted United; United also wanted David; not least Alex Ferguson himself, who thought David was a special talent.
And actually, Alex Ferguson was the main reason for David choosing Manchester United instead of Tottenham, because when David came to United, the first thing that happened was that Alex Ferguson came over to him and said "hello David".
That made a big impression on David, that the manager himself came to welcome him and showed his interest in the boy. That didn't happen at the other clubs, where he was just meeting representatives for the junior department. That made the decision easy for David Beckham: "I want to play for Manchester United!" he decided.
So, aged 16, David Beckham moved to Manchester, where he was part of Manchester United's famous youth team which won the FA Youth Cup in 1992. Other noticeable players in that youth team were Ryan Giggs, Garry and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Lee Sharpe; a whole bunch of very talented players that would go on to win the Premier League not long after. But although Beckham was reckoned as maybe the most gifted of those youngsters, he didn't seem to develop as quickly as some of the other players of that team.
The Youngster But nobody really doubted that Beckham would make it in to United's first team sooner or later. And Beckham himself knew fully well that in order to make it as a professional soccer player, you'll have to work hard. And that is what David has never been afraid to do: working.
In order to toughen him up a bit and give him more experience, Beckham was loaned out to Preston North End in division 3 for a few weeks in March 1995 where he played 5 matches and scored 2 goals.
He returned to Manchester United in April, and now Alex Ferguson thought David Beckam was ready for the Premier League. David made his Premier League debut in the match against Leeds on April 2, 1995. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. He also played in a few of the remaining matches that season.
But Beckham had played for the senior team before that though, just not in the Premier League. He was only 17 when he debuted for the senior team on September 23, 1992 in a league cup match away to Brighton & Howe Albion, where he came on for Andrei Kanchelskis late in the second half.
In January of 1993 David Beckham signed as a professional for Manchester United.
The first time Beckham was in the starting lineup for the senior team was on September 21, 1994. This was in a league cup match against Port Vale.
In the mid-nineties, English teams were not allowed to use too many players in the Champions League, which were not English. This forced Alex Ferguson to use many young and inexperienced players. Among those was David Beckham. And he repaid the trust placed in him, by scoring a goal in the 4-0 victory over Galatassaray at Old Trafford on November 1994. This was Beckham's first goal for the senior team. Despite United's emphatic victory, they were knocked out of the competition because of bad results earlier in the competition.
Makes his Mark It was in the 1995/96 season Beckham developed into a regular for Manchester United. Andrei Kanchelskis had played on United's right hand side, but he had now gone to Everton and this made room for David. The first game of the season was against Aston Villa. United were heavily beaten, 3-1. David came off the bench to play for the second half and he made his contribution by scoring United's only goal. Many of the players in United's team that day were those who had played in that famous youth team which won the FA Youth Cup in 1992.
After the game, former Liverpool player, Alan Hansen said those now so famous words: "You can't win anything with kids!"
Well, guess what? It was exactly what these kids did. Yes, at the end of the season, it was these kids that were on top of the table and were crowned Premier League Champions. And not only that, because they also won the F. A. Cup that same season. Beckham himself scored 8 goals during the season.
Hmm… you can't win anything with kids, eh? Poor Alan Hansen though, because I can't imagine how often he has been reminded of those not so well chosen words… :-)
The next season, 1996/1997, Beckham made sure that he meant business already in the first match of the season, when he scored against Wimbledon from the half way line. That goal was shown in television over and over again, and David Beckham was now a household name in England. Manchester United again won the Premier League that season.
Beckham's goal against Wimbledon from the half way line
Joins the National Team – World Cup '98 Also Glenn Hoddle, national team coach, had spotted David Beckham's talent - not that it was really hard – and he was selected to play for England against Moldova in a World Cup qualifier for France '98. And Hoddle was satisfied, because David started in all the qualifying games for the World Cup in France 1998. And England did qualify.
Now, the World Cup itself turned out to be a real testing of Beckham's character.
Surprisingly, David did not play in England's opening match against Tunisia, which England won 2-0. In England second match, against Romania, David came on after 33 minutes. But in England's final group match, which they had to win against Columbia, David was finally among the starting 11. And that was not a bad decision, as David struck a spectacular free kick from 25 meters and planted the ball in the top left corner of the goal. – Beckham vintage! This was David Beckham's first goal for England. England won the game 2-0 and qualified for the next round where they would meet Argentina.
Beckham's free kick against Columbia (no sound)
Becomes the Villain... England and especially David Beckham were on a high, but the Argentina game was soon going to change that. From being one of the most popular players in England, Beckham was about to become one of the most hated... all because of a red card. Or was it because of the red card? Or was it maybe just because England lost and they had to blame someone?
Well, here's what happened: England was, as mentioned, playing Argentina in second round of the World Cup '98. The game, a very good and exciting one by the way, stood at 2-2. Right after the halftime, Argentine player Simeone had fouled Beckham, and lying on the ground, Beckham struck out at Simeone with his foot in frustration.
It wasn't a dangerous kick, there was no power in it, but very unsporting, Simeone made a meal of it and acted as if he was badly hurt. All this happened right in front of the referee, and although Simeone was in no danger of being injured, the referee probably had no other option but to show Beckham the red card.
Beckham's red card against Argentina
Reduced to 10 men, England was not able to score the winning goal. The match was decided with penalties with Argentina coming out as the winner.
England were out of the World cup... and they needed a scapegoat. – Beckham was chosen!
The English newspapers were furious and wrote some of the nastiest headlines they could think of. Headlines like: "why this man's a national liability", "10 heroic lions – one stupid boy", "Beckham wrecked it to us", "Beckham the suicide blow", "moment of lunacy that cost cup hopes", "he cost us and he cost us dear" and "when will this flawed genius ever learn?".
In the streets some people had hung a Beckham-doll and burned it. It was really nasty stuff.
Does any soccer player deserve that? Surely not!
But why did David Beckham become such an interesting object for the tabloids? Well, that's probably a combination of several factors.
One is that his girlfriend was Victoria Adams (Posh Spice) from the Spice Girls. So, a soccer star + a pop star = surely something that can sell magazines and newspapers. Another thing was that when Lady Diana had died in 1997, the tabloids needed a new front-page favorite. Beckham was a good looking soccer star living like a celebrity and involved with a female pop star. Does it become sexier than that? He was the tabloid's perfect front page!
However, if there is anything the English press likes to do, then it is to build people up and then knock them down again. And David Beckham had reached that stage after the World Cup.
And it wasn't only the tabloids that were after Beckham. Wherever he played, the opposing team's supporters booed at him.
Stood the Test These were testing times for him and critics wondered if Beckham's career would go down to this or if he would move abroad. But Beckham was to prove them all wrong. They couldn't break him and he came out of the "crisis" as a stronger and better player.
Both Beckham and the rest of the Manchester United team produced some spectacular soccer that season, and in late May 1999, United had won the treble: The Premier League, the F.A. Cup and the Champions League. And Beckham had been one of the very best players.
He also became father to his first son in March 1999 and married Victoria Adams (Posh Spice) in July.
In 2000 Beckham was named as captain of the English national team.
From Villain to Hero Again If England was to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, they needed a draw in their last game against Greece at Old Trafford. But things didn't go according to England's plan and they found themselves behind 2-1 when 90 minutes of the game were played. Bit then, in injury time, England was awarded a free kick. And up stepped Captain Beckham to take it. And he wasn't to let the English crowd down as he struck one of his trademarked free kicks, bent it over the wall and in to the corner of the net. And England had qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002.
And David Beckham was instantly the most loved person in England again and the '98 World Cup and the things that followed were all forgotten. The villain had become their hero again!
But shortly before the World Cup, Beckham broke a bone in his foot in a Champions League match against Deportivo la Coruna. Was Beckham going to miss the world cup finals? Or would the bone have time to heal before? The media followed the progress intently and there were, more or less, news bulletins about it every 30 minutes, 24/7... well, maybe not quite ... as the nation anxiously awaited any for a positive outcome.
However, the bone did heal in time, and David Beckham was ready for the World Cup (although maybe not 100% fit).
And yet again England was to meet the Argentines, this time in the group stage. And the media once again tried to spearhead a clash between Beckham and Simeone, but that didn't really happen.
But in a kind of a way, Beckham got his revenge for the sending of in the 1998 world cup, as it was his penalty that secured England a 1-0 victory, and with this result, England would get trough to the next round, if they managed a draw against Nigeria in their final group game, and that's exactly what they did. The game ended 0-0. This also meant that Argentina had to beat Sweden in their last group match, but that match ended 1-1 and therefore the Argentines were out of the world cup 2002.
England then played Denmark in the second round and comfortable beat them 3-0 and then played Brazil in the quarterfinals. This was the end station for England, as they lost 2-1 to a better team. Well, not only a better team, but the best team, as Brazil went on to win the world cup 2002. This was their 5th world cup title.
Shortly after the World Cup, on September 1 to be precise, David and Victoria had their second child, a boy named Romeo.
Beckham and United Part David Beckham and Manchester United won another Premier League title in 2003, but this was to be Beckham's final year as a United player. For much of the season the press had speculated in some differences between Beckham and Alex Ferguson. It was said that Ferguson wasn't too happy about Beckham's celebrity lifestyle, because he thought it affected his performance for United. Whether this is true or not, I don't know, but it's no secret that Ferguson does have a conservative mind and he doesn't like too much hullabaloo about his players that is not directly connected to soccer.
Relations between Beckham and Ferguson hit an all time low, when Ferguson accidentally kicked a soccer boot which hit Beckham in the head. United had lost 2-0 to Arsenal in the 5th round of the F.A Cup and Ferguson was furious. In the dressing room he freaked out and lashed out at a boot lying on the floor and it went like a missile straight to Beckham's head and cut him right above his right eye.
The day after, pictures of David Beckham with a wound over his right eye made it evident for everybody what had gone on in the dressing room.
"Time heals all wounds", they say, and maybe the wound over Beckham's eye did heal, but the relationship between Beckham and Ferguson seemed to be beyond repair, even if the involving parties stated that there were problems between them.
Speculation were growing that Beckham was to leave Manchester United. And when Beckham after United's last home match of the season was playing soccer with his son all alone in an empty Old Trafford, it was clear to everybody that this was Beckham's farewell to Old Trafford.
Next Stop: Real Madrid And in June, Beckham confirmed that he and Manchester United had parted company. He had signed a 4 year contract with Real Madrid. Beckham was no longer a Manchester United player. This was not the way things were suppose to happen… But life must go on…
Beckham's time in Madrid hasn't brought too much success on the field so far. With names like Ronaldo, Raul, Zinedine Zidane, Louis Figo and Roberto Carlos and, off course, David Beckham, Real Madrid was expected to clinch a few titles. But that has just not happened as many of these star players have underperformed.
In the 2003/2004 season Real Madrid ended the season on 4th spot in the Primera Liga, 7 points behind champions Valencia. In the Champions League they were ousted by AS Monaco in the quarter finals.
The 2004/2005 season hasn't brought any silverware to the Club either. They were knocked out by Juventus in the round between the last 16.
At the moment of writing, Real Madrid is in second spot in the Primera Liga, 6 points adrift of Barcelona, which don't seem to be slipping up.
But if life in Madrid has been quiet for Beckham on pitch, then life off pitch has been the exact opposite.
The Scandal In March 2004, Rebecca Loos, a former personal assistant to David Beckham, suddenly made headlines around the world when she claimed that she had had an affair with David Beckham. David denied all accusations and called them ludicrous. The women, Miss Loos, reportedly got a LOT of money from newspapers and television for her "revelations". And apparently, her story was contagious, because over the next few days, a whole herd of women were claiming how they had also had an affair with him… all of them hoping to become wealthy of their story, just like Miss Loose…
Child no. 3 On a happier note, David and Victoria Beckham could celebrate the berth of their third child in February 2005. Again it was a boy, their third, and they have given him the name Cruz.