David Beckham is a 21st century god. He embodies the modern man; he's sporty, handsome, and a family man who's ability to be down to earth but still inspire, lead and teach has led to an OBE and is loved by women and men alike (women want to be with him and men...probably want to be with him too). Remember when he was the most hated man in Britain? When he was giving Guy Fawkes a run for his money and people were hanging effigies of him? When he brought out the worst in our collective consciousness as a nation? Thought not. Because Golden Balls has not always been super Becks, let's take a look at when the World Cup was a nightmare for Becks and when he faced the biggest challenge of his career.
In the World Cup in France in 1998, Beckham was a rising star, he’d scored that magnificent goal from the halfway mark for Manchester United in 1996 and started making a name for himself by dating pop star and Spice Girl Victoria Adams. A floppy haired (in the fashion of a boyband), attractive, confident player, we had our high hopes resting on him and we were enthusiastic for England's chances. As the game (in the second round against Argentina) was on a knife edge, and fans up and down the country sat on the edge of their bar stools, Beckham was fouled and whilst on the ground saw red and kicked the player. A small but mighty act, he found himself red carded and red faced in mere moments. With ten men left, the rest was elementary. Our iconoclastic nature kicked in, it was his fault. We seemed to revel in it, rousing the troops against our enemy. Shaming our fallen comrade. A sample headline from Daily Mirror; ‘Ten Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy’ and Daily Star; ‘What An Idiot.’
Today we would be ashamed to remember our thoughts and feelings at that time because now we're so proud of his achievements. He had to wait it out, quietly taking his punishment (at one point he was booed every time he touched the ball) and working hard on himself, football, his public image and his marriage. For what better way to come back against criticism than to be the best you can be. He didn't crumble under Alex Ferguson who kicked a boot at him in the dressing room, maintaining a dignified silence (although curiously...or if you were cynical...not so curiously... the story still surfaced in the media and pictures emerged of Beckham wearing plaster above his eye) against the man who says ‘"David was the only player I managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game," who sold him shortly after.
Rather than give up, Beckham moved to Real Madrid where he continued to flourish. In the end it was only the alleged relationship with Rebecca Loos which shook Beckham, when the News of the World exposed the 'Secret Affair', Beckham was so well thought of, that most people took a while to even believe it might be true. Ironically, Beckham sailed through the episode with his PR machine in the background, keeping a calm and resolute attitude and his ever-present cheeky smile. It was Victoria who encountered the media storm, with some even blaming her for being absent, staying in England and focusing on her career. It wasn't uncommon to hear the casual pitching of one woman against another, if it wasn't bad enough, Victoria had to deal with the comparison between herself and Rebecca. Victoria took the challenge head on, arranging the family photo shoot on the ski slopes with those 'I don't care mirrored sunglasses' and putting on a united front on the red carpet with her scarlet red lips and 'I'm bloody sexy' little black dress. At the time they called the allegations ‘ludicrous’, a clever side-stepping by the PR team to avoid confirming or denying the rumours, and eventually we were all ready to move on.
From there the Beckham brand really comes into their own; LA was the perfect place to redefine them and their relationship. They were perfect celebrity fodder for tinsel town with their blonde hair cuts, English ways and good looks. Beckham impressed for LA Galaxy and Victoria found her next path, as a fashion designer. Beckham has built a more serious side to his reputation. From his early days where he was in need of media training to now where he can give speeches to rooms of people, press conferences, he’s been an ambassador for our bid for the world cup, he’s started up football schools for young children to get started, and let’s not forget the national pride we all felt at the Olympics when he arrived by speed boat with his torch – oh my. It hasn't hurt him that he looks equally as handsome in a suit as in a football kit, and that he seems to be maturing like a fine wine and getting better with age.
He’s also the modern man, he wore a sarong and didn’t care, got married and had a throne at his wedding reception long before Peter Andre and Katie Price thought of that, wore a matching leather outfit with his wife and seemed to enjoy it. He embraced his ‘Golden Balls’ tag given to him by Victoria and has run with it, have you seen his underwear for H&M? He was the butt of the joke in Only Fools and Horses ‘you plonker’ and remember when Victoria said he wore her underwear? There is a quiet confidence about Beckham that I love and he seems like the kind of guy you’d enjoy a pint with. He's lost the arrogance of youth and been media trained enough to know what to say while still being genuine. And yet as the World Cup rolls round again, I realise how much pressure is on the players, because if it goes wrong, it can take an awful lot to resurrect your public image .As he says himself;
‘There's nothing bigger or better than the World Cup. It can make or break you. It almost broke me. It was all going well but a single moment changed my life. I flipped out at one player, stupidly. I was young and you make silly mistakes. It was a mistake. That's when I went through all the s**t that I went through. Four years I got abused by people by media. In a way I’m glad it happened it made me stronger.’ David Beckham, Into the Unknown, BBC1 2014.
It's the modern fairy tale; we've all created. The highs and the lows. It's a good job he and his wife are such strong characters or we would have happily destroyed the pair of then with our barbed words and catty remarks on their way up. It doesn't really matter if they're carefully managed by a PR or publicity team, they've been around long enough now that we accept them for what they are. We need them, they’re our modern Royal family, a great example to us all. A self-made super couple who have managed to reach the top of their respective careers and still find time to make a family. Now, we can be proud of their achievements, and isn't it nice to share it with them?