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Beckham, David

David Beckham


British soccer player

David Beckham is more than one of England's best soccer player. He is a celebrity, treated as near-royalty, hounded by the press who dwell on his every move. During his career as a member of the Manchester United, and also playing for the England in the World Cup, Beckham has been both villain and hero. Lauded, vilified, bemoaned, worshipped, and ridiculedfew professional players of any sport have undergone the constant barrage of attention on and off the field as Beckham. Handsome, with a quick eye to where the cameras are placed, he has both benefited and suffered from a life lived in the public arena.

Joins Manchester United

David Beckham was born in Leytonstone, London, on May 2, 1975 to Ted, a repair man, and Sandra Beckham. He started dreaming about playing soccer professionally when he was eight years old as he watched the sport on television. Beckham played youth soccer, and when he was eleven he won the Bobby Charlton Soccer Skills Competition, which judged ball control skills. The win earned Beckham a trip to Barcelona, where he drew the attention of a Manchester United soccer talent scout. His parents insisted that Beckham finish his schooling at Chingford High before he could join a professional team.

At the age of sixteen, Beckham signed on as an apprentice for Manchester United and the team won the Football Association (FA) Youth Cup in 1992. On April 2, 1995, Beckham made his Premier League debut at home in a match against Leeds United. During the following season, 1995-96, he began making an impact on his team from the midfield position. He was slowly growing a reputation for his ability to execute free kicks and score goals, often times in sensational fashion or at critical moments of the game. His performance during the season caught the attention of England's national team manager, who capped Beckham (named him to the national team). He made his national debut on September 1, 1996, against Moldova.

Manchester United won the Premier League championship both in 1996 and 1997. In 1997 Beckham was

voted the Young Player of the Year and finished second in voting for the overall Player of the Year award. Despite failing to retain the Premiere League title in 1998, Beckham was named to England's World Cup squad, and he signed a five-year, $12.5 million contract with Manchester United.

1998 World Cup Fiasco

Beckham's 1998 World Cup experience became a turning point in his career. In the match against Columbia Beckham scored a spectacular game-winning free kick. However, he went from national hero to national villain in a heartbeat when, in the next match against Argentina, he was given a red card (which means expulsion from the game) for kicking Argentina's Diego Simeone just minutes into the second half with the score tied 2-2. Argentina went on to win on penalty kicks, eliminating England in the second round. Simeone had flattened Beckham from behind and, in response, Beckham flung his leg out, grazing Simeone who fell dramatically hard. Simeone's infraction merited a yellow card (a warning), but Beckham, given the first red card of his career, was booted from the match.

In the aftermath of England's loss, Beckham was vilified. The Daily Mirror's headline read "10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy," and the Daily Star's banner read "What an Idiot." Beckham was hung in effigy outside a London pub, and a Baptist church message board read "God Forgives Even David Beckham." He received death threats and was continually booed the following season each time he touched the ball. Beckham was not immune to the constant criticism, and publicly apologized, saying, according to Sports Illustrated, "I will always regret my actions. I want every fan to know how deeply sorry I am."

Celebrity Status

Beckham, known as Beck by his fans, was quickly becoming more than a soccer player; he was a national celebrity. He is also the pretty boy, the national and international heart throb, and as much was written about his hairstyle and his choice of clothes as his soccer abilities. When Beckham began dating Victoria Adams, also known as Posh Spice from the pop group Spice Girls, in 1997, he and Adams became daily fodder for the tabloid press. Much of the media's attention was initially encouraged by the couple, who tossed tidbits of personal information to the tabloids and could be seen out and about wearing matching designer outfits. In 1998 the couple announced that Adams was pregnant, which once again added fuel to the media fire. Tabloid reporting intermixed true stories with false to further hype the couple. Much like Princess Diana before them, Beckham and Adams are reviled in the press as much as they are praised. Yet the more the press deems them uninteresting, tac! ky, and glamour hounds, the more obsessed England becomes in following their every move.

The media was in a frenzy in July 1999 when Beckham and Adams married in Luttrellstown Castle, eight miles west of Dublin. The daylong gala reportedly cost $800,000. Adams wore a diamond-encrusted crown, and Beckham wore an ivory suit. After the nuptials, the newlyweds sat in gilded, red-velvet thrones, with their young son Brooklyn between them, watching their guests mingle under live potted apple trees and fluttering doves. The night, which the National Post noted would be long remembered "for its monumental tackiness," included an 18-piece orchestra playing old Spice Girl tunes, footmen, fireworks, and a cake topped with an edible, nearly nude figure of Beckham and Adams embracing. Beckham and Adams appeared at the end of the affair in matching purple outfits. The couple sold the pictures of their wedding to OK! magazine for $2.2 million.

On-field Redemption

Beckham started the 1998-99 soccer season on a mission to redeem himself for his grave error at the World Cup. Despite playing under constant pressure and ongoing booing from the crowd, Beckham had an excellent year and lead Manchester United to an unprecedented triple crown, winning the Premier League championship, the FA Cup, and the European Cup. Beckham had another good year during the 1999-2000 season, winning his fourth Premier League championship. He was runner-up in the voting for both best player in Europe and the best player in the world, and was second in voting for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (which was won by Lennox Lewis ). Although he scored his fiftieth goal during the season, more press was given to his new mohawk haircut.

Beckham's play on the soccer field went a long way to redeem his image after the World Cup fiasco. Despite a slump early in 2001 that had critics grumbling about his true value, Beckham remained focused and returned to form. By the end of the 2000-01 season, having been named the team's captain, he was receiving high praise for his new-found leadership, maturity, and wisdom. Often knocked as a footballer with exceptional skills that did not necessarily come through in the clutch, Beckham quieted his critics by proving himself on the field.


1975 Born in Leytonstone, London, England
1991 Joins Manchester United as a trainee
1995 Makes debut in Premier League match
1996 Becomes starting midfielder
1998 Gets ejected from World Cup game against Argentina; vilified in England; signs five-year, $12.5 million with Manchester United
1999 Marries Victoria Adams, also known as Posh Spice
2000 Publishes autobiography
2001 Named team captain
2002 Scores free kick goal in the World Cup against Argentina

History of the Manchester United Soccer Team

Manchester United came into existence in 1878, under the name Newton Health. In 1909 the team began playing in the newly built arena, Old Trafford, where the team continues to play today. The team had moments of glory and dismal failure during its first decades. League play was suspended during World War II, and Old Trafford suffered damage from bombings, but the team quickly rebuilt it when play resumed in 1946. During the next twelve years Manchester United built a successful program, but a plane crash in 1958 that claimed the lives of eight players severely affected the team.

The Reds, as the team is known, careened through the 1960s and 1970s, matching great winning streaks with equally impressive slumps. In 1986 the team hired Sir Alex Ferguson, a seasoned and successful manager, to rebuild the Reds into a top-ranked organization. Between 1992 and 2001, the team claimed seven FA Premiere League titles.

Manchester United is a popular team in England, with the biggest payroll and the most media exposure. The team grossed nearly $140 million in 2000, more than any other team in the world. Comparable to the one-time stature of the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Yankees, fans tended to either love them or hate them. For his part, Beckham is the highest paid player on the United team, earning some $13 million a year from salary and endorsements, and he, like his team, tends to inspire a strong reaction among fans who defend or distain him.

Beckham's moment of supreme redemption came during the World Cup in 2002, when England once again faced Argentina. Stalled at 0-0, England was awarded a penalty kick. Although he was coming off a broken foot and was not one-hundred percent healthy, Beckham lined up to take the shot. With the Argentinean players doing their best to distract him, Beckham, the master of the penalty kick, put the ball in the back of the net. England defended its 1-0 lead to advance in the World Cup. He was once again the hero.

The Beckham Phenomenon

Beckham's life on and off the field have inspired so much curiosity in England that Staffordshire University began offering a twelve-week course on Beckham and the sociological implication of his career. The course is founded on the presupposition that Beckham's 1998 World Cup mishap defined an era in England similar to the way the assassination of John F. Kennedy did in the United States. Beckham's undeniable talent to score on free kicks drew a team of international researchers to study how he literally bends the plane of the ball over defenders and into the goal. A great footballer with an even greater public persona, Beckham continues to fuel the frenzy through his rich-and-famous lifestyle and his exceptional play on the field.

Awards and Accomplishments

1992 Wins Football Association (FA) Youth Cup
1996-97, 2000-01 Wins Premier League championship
1997 Voted Young Player of the Year
1998, 2002 Plays in World Cup
1999 Wins European Cup, Premier League, and FA Cup championships


Address: Manchester United Football, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester, M16 ORA, England.



The Complete Marquis Who's Who. New York: Marquis Who's Who, 2001.


Barnes, Simon. "Banishment of Beckham." The Spectator, (February 26, 2000): 63.

Barnes, Simon. "Football's Osric." The Spectator, (September 8, 2001): 63.

Barnes, Simon. "Sublime and Ridiculous." The Spectator, (October 9, 1999): 79.

Barnes, Simon. "Triumph and Disaster." The Spectator, (June 5, 1999): 71.

Blonska, Joanna, and Jeffrey Klinke. "How Posh?" People Weekly, (July 19, 1999): 58-59.

Brownell, Ginanne. "The New Royal Couple." Newsweek, (October 16, 2000): 64.

Lawton, James. "Beckham has Only Himself to Blameand Posh." Daily Express, (January 1, 2000): B4.

"Posh 'N Becks." National Post, (October 28, 2000): W6.

Thomsen, Ian. "Scourge of a Nation: England is Still Lambasting David Beckham." Sports Illustrated, (September 7, 1998): 10.


"Beckham's Biography." Magnificent7: The Online David Beckham Magazine. (January 8, 2003).

"Beck's Dad Slams MP over Call to Ban Star from Road." Manchester Online, February 10, 2001. (January 8, 2003).

"David Beckham: Bio." Manchester United. (January 8, 2003).

"England Fans Salute New Captain Marvel." Manchester Online, September 9, 2001. (January 8, 2003).

"Giles: Beckham a Parody of a Great Player." Manchester Online, December 4, 2001. (January 8, 2003).

"More Millions for Beckham: In His Own Words." Manchester Online, August 22, 2002. (January 8, 2003).

"Profile: World Cup Euphoria in England Surrounding Star David Beckham." National Public Radio, June 2, 2002. (January 22, 2003).

Sketch by Kari Bethel

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Beckham, David

David Beckham

British soccer player David Beckham (born 1975) emerged as one of the game's standouts in the late 1990s, winning fans both inside and outside the game with his spectacular play and with charisma that attracted enormous amounts of publicity.

On the field, Beckham was a star among others of equal brightness, a crowd-pleasing player with a dramatic style marked by a talent for scoring goals with long kicks that might, to the consternation of defenders, either scream forward at blinding speed or veer off in freakish curves. Off the field, Beckham was an international celebrity that few other athletes—and indeed few others in any field of endeavor—could match for the ability to command sheer public fascination. With a flair for fashion and a pop-star wife, Beckham bounced back from career disappointments and emerged more successful than ever. In the United States, the one place where household-name status eluded him, his reputation was helped along by the success of "Bend It Like Beckham," a gentle British film comedy that dealt with his career only indirectly.

Born to Soccer Fans

David Robert Joseph Beckham grew up in modest circumstances, and his transition to member of the jet set involved a period of adjustment. He was born in the Leytonstone area of London's East End on May 2, 1975 to David (known as "Ted") Beckham, a gas appliance installer, and his wife Sandra, a hair stylist. Both parents, and Ted Beckham's father as well, were passionate soccer fans, although father and grandfather disagreed over the relative merits of the rival Manchester United and Arsenal clubs. The family was pleased to encourage young David Beck-ham when he began to show unusual talent with a soccer ball, and he became a child star with the Ridgeway Rovers youth team when he was eight. Beckham's parents exhorted him to practice hard, and he had a natural work ethic that never flagged even during rough spots in his professional career. He tried out various sports in school, including rugby and distance racing, but soccer always came first. "I had no other career choices," he told Sports Illustrated for Kids. "The buzz I get from playing football [soccer] remains the same as it was when I was a kid growing up in the East End of London."

Beckham's grandfather came to the rescue as the family struggled to scrape together $230 so that the 11-year-old Beckham could attend a soccer camp run by former Manchester United star Bobby Charlton. Though he was too small for most of England's youth leagues, his abilities were obvious, and he won a national soccer skills tournament organized by Charlton, an event similar to Punt, Pass & Kick in the U.S. Manchester United scouts kept an eye on the standout youngster, grooming Beckham with summer training programs in between jobs he took—including one cleaning up drink containers at a dog track—to supplement the family income. When he was 14, Beckham signed a statement of intention to join the Manchester United organization, and in 1991 he joined the team's official training program.

Though he was only 16, and Manchester was several hours away from London, Beckham adapted confidently to life in the world of big-time sports. He led Manchester United's junior team to a Football Association (FA) championship, a nationwide crown, in 1992. Moving up to the "Man U" first team, a step below its top Premier League squad, the following year, he officially turned professional. Beckham was loaned to the lower-level Preston North End team in 1994 and 1995—a demotion that might have bitterly disappointed many players, but one that Beckham saw as an opportunity to gain large amounts of playing time, build toughness, and work on weak points in his game. Manchester's decision and Beckham's determination paid off, and he took the field for Manchester United in a scoreless game against Leeds on April 2, 1995.

Thought to be looking at a rebuilding year, Manchester United was energized by the presence of its new talent in the 1995–96 season. Beckham scored seven goals in 33 Premier League games, and the team won both the FA Cup and the Premier League title. A prime example of Beckham's ability to make headlines came at the beginning of the next season in a match against the Wimbledon team: he noticed that the opposing team's goalie had paused several steps away from the net and let fly a 60-yard curving kick from the other end of field. He scored, and television commentators began to talk about him more often. He was voted Young Player of the Year for the 1996–97 season as Manchester United won its second league title in a row.

Dated Posh Spice

Off the field, things were likewise going well for Beckham. In the spring of 1997 he began dating Victoria Adams, better known as Posh Spice. She was one of the Spice Girls, a pop group then at the height of its fame among British female teens, and tabloid newspapers went wild with breathless news of the latest doings of "Posh and Becks." The attraction was instant and mutual if reports at the time are to be believed. When she was shown Beckham's picture, Adams said in a Sun interview quoted by Joanna Blonska and Alex Tresniowski of People, "I had no idea who he was, but I remember thinking one word: gorgeous." Beckham noticed Adams in a Spice Girls video on television. "That's the girl for me, and I'm going to get her," he told a teammate (as quoted by People's Michelle Tauber). "She's my idea of perfection."

Whether naturally or by calculation, Beckham maximized the exposure that came from the romance. On an Asian vacation with Adams, he was photographed in a sarong, and from then on he showed a knack for grabbing newspaper space with a new look. He signed the first of numerous endorsement deals, a seven-year, multimillion-dollar pact with the Adidas athletic-shoe firm. Threats from a stalker worried Beckham, but he dealt well with the rising pressures of top-level fame. Beckham and Adams stayed in touch by phone as each trotted the globe, and Adams seemed to be genuinely supportive of her sports-star boyfriend as he suffered through his first brush with fan disillusionment.

The occasion was the 1998 World Cup, in the run-up to which Beckham had played well but had been accused by coach Glenn Hoddle of not focusing on the tournament. After he was benched in two matches against Colombia's team, his temper flared in a second-round match against Britain's archrival Argentina, a nation with which Britain had gone to war in the Falkland Islands not long before. Given a red card penalty and sent out of the game following a kicking foul against Argentine player Diego Simeone, who had smashed into Beckham's back, Beckham left the British team short-manned. Britain lost the game on a penalty kick and was eliminated from the tournament, with the blame, as he himself admitted, resting mostly at Beckham's feet. One particularly merciless tabloid newspaper termed him an idiot in its headline.

Though he endured boos at the beginning of the 1998–99 season, he persevered and worked his way back into fans' favor with hard work on the field. Voted the team's most valuable player that year, he was a key contributor to Manchester United's triple Premier League, FA Cup, and European Cup championships. News of Victoria's pregnancy had brightened Beckham's mood, and their son Brooklyn was born on March 4, 1999. They were married on July 4, 1999, in an $800,000 ceremony held at an Irish castle and featuring a wedding cake topped with sculptures of an almost-nude bride-and-groom pair. They moved into a $4 million estate in England's Hertfordshire region that was dubbed Beckingham Palace; it had its own recording studio, and the walls of one of its bathrooms were covered entirely with pictures of Audrey Hepburn, Victoria Beckham's favorite actress.

Avenged Argentina Disaster

For the next several years, Beckham went through cycles of public adulation and disillusionment. He shaved off all his hair, then wore it in cornrows, and he anticipated the "metrosexual" look by wearing nail polish at times. On the field he had hot streaks and was becoming more and more consistently recognized as one of the best players in the world. In 2000 he was edged out by boxer Lennox Lewis for the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but he won the award in 2001. In June of 2002 Beckham demanded and received a payment of $32,000 a week from Manchester for his image rights, over and above his salary as a player, which was already enough to make him the best-compensated player in the world. Despite a series of injuries that attracted get-well wishes from Britons from Prime Minister Tony Blair on down, he delivered on the field; in a 2002 World Cup match against Argentina, Beckham avenged the 1998 fiasco by netting a penalty kick after shrugging off a conciliatory handshake from a player who had earlier goaded him into losing his temper.

Beckham's second son, Romeo, was born in September of 2002 (a third son, Cruz, was born February 20, 2005). In 2003 Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon Beckham the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He continued his involvement in British sports, playing for British national teams and working behind the scenes to promote London's ultimately successful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In June of 2003, however, after clashes with Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson, Beckham signed with a team in Spain. The Real Madrid (Royal Madrid) club was something of a dream team, stocked with international superstars such as France's Zinedine Zidane and the single-named Brazilian striker Ronaldo. Beckham, entering his prime playing years, was trying to take his game to yet a higher level.

The four-year contract netted Beckham an estimated $41 million. Real Madrid shirts with Beckham's name sold out in one day, and his move to Spain topped international headlines. Despite all the hoopla, Spanish fans were cool to Beckham as Real Madrid floundered in 2003 and 2004. His claim that he had no time to learn Spanish, and Victoria's allegation that Madrid smelled like garlic, did not help his image. But Beckham's work ethic once again carried the day; after he agreed to play in the unfamiliar and highly physical position of defensive midfielder, things improved.

Beckham's personal life suffered in the crucible of superstardom. The Beckham family had a scare when an intruder wielding a gasoline can climbed the wall of their English estate while Beckham was at a team practice in Spain; the intruder was stopped by guards. Allegations of extramarital affairs, most notably by his former personal assistant Rebecca Loos, dogged Beckham and drove tabloids into high gear. But the marriage endured, and Beckham became even more of a true British icon when an unusual video portrait of him was installed at London's venerable National Portrait Gallery.

Slated as captain of Britain's World Cup team in 2006, Beckham continued to play for Real Madrid and had few mountains left to climb on the soccer field. One major challenge facing him in the mid-2000s was to extend his popularity in the comparatively soccer-deprived United States. He was aided in that quest by the makers of the 2003 British film "Bend It Like Beckham," which depicted an Indo-British girl who hopes, against her family's wishes to become a soccer player. Beckham was shown only once, walking through an airport. But the film, an unexpected hit in America, introduced his name and his fame to Britain's former colonies, and Beckham began to snare American endorsement deals. His knack for putting himself in the middle of fashion tastemaking was undiminished, and he began to form friendships with hip-hop mogul P. Diddy and R&B star Usher. With several years of playing still ahead of him, David Beckham seemed well on the way to becoming an athlete like very few others—Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali were named as comparisons—whose names were instantly known all over the world.


Beckham, David, with Tom Watt, Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, HarperCollins, 2003.


Economist (U.S. ed.), September 17, 2005.

People, May 4, 1998, p. 71; June 9, 2003.

Sports Illustrated for Kids, March 1, 2005.

Time International, May 10, 2004.

Vanity Fair, July 2004.


"Beckham Joins Real Madrid," BBC Sports, (November 4, 2005).

"David Beckham,", (November 4, 2005).

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Beckham, David

David Beckham (David Robert Joseph Beckham), 1975–, English soccer player known especially for the power and accuracy of his free kicks. After beginning to play on the Manchester United youth squad in 1991, he joined its regular team in 1993, debuted in his first professional game in 1995, and became the team's regular right midfielder in 1996. Also that year he was first named to England's national team, ultimately becoming (2001–06) team captain. He was vital to United team's six league championships and other accomplishments while on the team. Tall, handsome, and married (1999) to pop star Victoria Adams ( "Posh Spice" of the Spice Girls singing group), Beckham became one of Britain's most recognizable celebrities. In 2003 he joined Spain's Real Madrid team, where he was an effective and popular player. He then played with the Los Angeles Galaxy (2007–12), winning league championships (2011–12), Italy's AC Milan (2009–10, on loan from the Galaxy), and France's Paris Saint-Germain (2013).

See his Beckham: My World (2000), Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground (2003), and David Beckham: My Side (2003).

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Beckham, David

Beckham, David (1975) English midfield footballer. He made his debut for Manchester United in 1995, and earned his first England cap in 1996. Beckham faced much criticism after being sent off against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup. In 2000, he captained England for the first time. Beckham led England to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. In 2003, he left Manchester United to play in Spain for Real Madrid.

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