Friday, August 13, 2010

David Beckham

The England football manager, Fabio Capello, doesn't speak very good English, so it was probably a misunderstanding that mad him blurt out that it was unlikely that David Beckham would be picked for future England games.

David Beckham has been an England player for about 14 years and was captain for about half that time. He has been idolized by many in the same sort of way that Princess Diana was, though there has been another constituency that has been (and continues) sniping at him in the correspondence columns.

Nevertheless, he is a good example to young men who aspire to footballing greatness. I don't think most people realise how difficult it is to excel at football. The best footballer I ever played with at school, who garnered county, regional and international honours as a schoolboy turned professional and managed to achieve a few seasons with Reading in Division 3 (South).

Beckham was not the best footballer who ever played for England, but there are few if any who showed more enthusiasm for the cause. Whether you are a concert pianist or a brain surgeon it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. Beckham's expertise was in kicking a football. Remember he featured in a TV advert for Weatabix at the age of 10 doing keepy-upies. Remember that he stayed on after training practising free kicks when the rest of the team went off to the golf course, betting shop or boozer.

The result was that free kick against Greece that stunned the crowd into silence. (And you should not forget that Greece went on to be the next European Champions). Even last season we had an example of Beckham crossing the ball on the volley to make a goal. Remember those two corners that won the European cup in injury time for Manchester United? The stunning long ball to Raul for Real Madrid was typical of his skill and repeated often. Neither Gerrard nor Lampard can rival him in that department.

As a right winger Beckham was neither fast like Walcott nor tricky like Johnson, but by gaining a yard or crossing on the volley he produced an end result that neither of them nor any winger since has produced. His free kicks became a by-word throughout football, and until Ronaldo, no one was better at taking them.

He also kept himself fit. Rooney is already looking dumpy at 23; Beckham has a figure good enough to feature in Gay-mags at 35. People forget that he was London schools cross country champion as a teenager.

Celebrity attaches itself to good footballers - even people like Gareth Southgate. On the whole he has handled it as well as most and has made more money from it. To have done so much without being the best footballer of the century in Britain, demonstrates his ability to make the most of his circumstances.

I can’t say I am much into celebrity culture, but he hasn’t made quite the mess of his life that some of his contemporaries have such as John Terry, Ashley Cole and even Peter Crouch.

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