David Beckham Retires
By Terry Baddoo
So it’s bye, bye Beckham. And, not to go all Shakespearian on you, but to borrow from the Bard, “Age did not wither him.”
His decision to hang up his boots at the ripe old age of 38 having come in the wake of yet another triumph, this time in the form of a Ligue Un title with PSG that ensures he went out with a bang not a whimper.
And it could not have been any other way. For the evergreen soldier of fortune, who hugged the spotlight tighter than one of his wife’s dresses on Oprah Winfrey, was a born winner who’s lived his entire professional life in Disneyworld.
Goldenballs was not the best player of his generation, but he was the mac daddy when it came to choosing the right club at the right moment. Once there, he never failed to maximize his talent. And, throughout his career, he was always the man for the big occasion.
Of course, in recent years, it became fashionable to knock Beckham for being nothing more than an extended self-publicity stunt. We all know the book on Becks – as the years went by his primary worth to any top team was in selling a few shirts; getting a few star-struck bums on seats; and generating a few more column inches for himself and his latest promotional vehicle, or “club” as it’s sometimes known. He was the ultimate has-been, years past his sell-by date, who was trading on his celebrity. Worse, his most rabid haters had him as a never-was, unfit to lace the boots of the greats with which he was so often compared by the gullible, ill-informed or just plain stupid.
Well, that’s a view, but I don’t subscribe to it. For me, David Beckham epitomized what being a footballer is all about for most players. He was a master at playing to his strengths.
Think about it, uniquely gifted players like Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Best, Zico, Zidane, Ronaldo, CR7 and Messi make up what percentage of professional footballers? Less than 1% I’d wager. Which means that the bulk of professional players get where they get because of hard work more than natural talent. So how is it that a player with such limited skills was able to join the luminaries at the top of the tree and stay there for so long? He worked….harder and smarter than everyone else.
As a reporter with the BBC and CNN I saw David’s work ethic up close and personal. During his heyday with England and Manchester United, through his Real Madrid career, and in his Milan/LA Galaxy days the one constant, amid all the hoopla, was his continued focus on training right and relentlessly practicing his art.
In one instance, at a European tournament, I stood behind a goal after an England training session watching him hit ball after ball over and around a wall of mannequins. Not for five minutes, but for maybe an hour, with no-one to witness it but a junior keeper in goal and a couple of us reporters. That’s dedication, and it’s what separates the greats, regardless of their skill level.
I recall a similar experience with the late Seve Ballesteros, when, after a practice round ahead of the British Open, I watched him chip balls from the edge of the green for 2 hours! One hour past our scheduled interview time incidentally. Tennis champion, Thomas Muster, was another practice fiend I witnessed at work. The then world number-one pounding the Paris clay in an endless stream of metronomic rallies for what seemed like an eternity ahead of the French Open.
My point is that David bent it like Beckham because he practiced bending it like Beckham, working tirelessly to live up to the standards he himself set. And, even in the twilight of his career, he still had that same attitude, showing incredible dedication to his art.
Yes, he was a star, a ham, a billboard, but he was also a diligent grafter. An everyman who took on the world and won!
David Beckham, you will be missed.