In a certain air of inevitability, David Beckham today announced his retirement from football at the age of 38. About time?
The former England captain is the only Englishman to have lifted titles in four different countries – England, Spain, USA and France. Very few other people can claim they have done it in more than one. It’s rare for English footballers to leave the comfort of the Premier League, so for Beckham to spread the good word across the world, especially in the notably unenthusiastic-about-soccer America, is no mean feat.
Beckham has his naysayers, often for good reason. Many believe the circus that surrounds him and his Spice Girl wife have detracted from the sport he loves. There are those he simply followed the money, with millions of dollars on offer to join LA Galaxy an obvious pull but a bad footballing decision. Some are understandably unsure of what he brings to the table outside of his trademark free kicks and precision, pinpoint crosses.
It’s all true. The moment that he lashed out and received his marching orders at the 1998 World Cup could have been the last we heard of him. What a shame that would have been. On his path to gaining 19 trophies, including 10 league titles, he has matured into the ideal ambassador for a sport where the number of dissenting voices is growing. Such is his appeal that he became China’s first foreign ambassador for football in the country, a huge honour and an almighty task to improve an image tarnished by corruption and a pretty bad league in general.
Twenty years on from his emergence alongside the Manchester United ensemble of Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs, to name but a few, Beckham’s retirement is the latest in a line of British veterans upping sticks and moving on to pastures new. Sir Alex Ferguson finally announced his intentions to step down from his position of manager at the 2012/13 champion side, handing the baton over to David Moyes. With him, Scholes retired for the second time to relatively little fanfare after a low-key season (albeit nowhere near as damaging as Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula One). Top figures that achieved plenty of admiration in this country.
The same can’t be said for other Man Utd figures, Messrs Ferdinand and Rooney. The former announced his international retirement this week and nobody cared. As far as the average England fan knew, Rio Ferdinand had declared his disinterest in the national side when he declined to play in the World Cup qualifiers earlier this year, citing medical reasons but instead doing broadcasting work in Qatar. Then we have Wayne Rooney, who has decided he isn’t getting enough attention for his shoddy work this season and “didn’t feel like” playing against Swansea. Ferguson’s revealed Rooney wants to leave, but who would sign this unprofessional oaf who has been thoroughly shown up this season by the arrival of Robin Van Persie.
Say what you want about David Beckham’s talent and his choices in life, but it’s hard to deny his complete devotion to football. As he revealed today, the idea of playing in five countries and captaining his country was a boyhood dream, but nothing more than that. From staying late on the training pitch to enhancing football’s reputation across the globe, he’s done it all for his sport. Why else would he donate the last five months of his PSG contract to charity (other than the fact he has loads of money already)?
Remember his free kick against Greece that rocketed England into the 2002 World Cup. Remember that halfway line goal against Wimbledon. David Beckham’s playing career may be over, but who knows what he’ll do next. If his three sons, who all had a go at playing for Chelsea, show anything like the devotion his father did towards football, English sport may still have a future, yet.