It seems to me that David Beckham is a fundamentally nice chap. Well presented, loves his mum, loves his wife, loves his kids. He earns a lot of money for doing more than kicking an inflated pigs bladder around and, save for a couple of aberrations early on in his career, has had a pretty blemish free record on the pitch. He had to put up with a season’s worth of abuse after his sending off in the 1998 World Cup was thought by those who don’t really know about these sorts of things to have cost us getting to the final. In all probability it probably cost us getting knocked out by Holland in the next round. If, indeed, we would have got there with him.
He has had a pretty spectacular football career, although most of the medals that he has won came during his time at Manchester United. Once he had left there, he picked up one league medal in Spain and one in the United States. But he has perfume and underwear to sell, so is never far from our screens.
He was also the highest profile ambassador when selling the Olympic Games to the world and the second biggest, behind the future king, when it came to trying to sell the World Cup to the world. He managed one, didn’t manage the other, but will probably bag a knighthood when his playing days are over.
So, him being part of the team that brought home the five rings means that he should be selected for the once in a lifetime British Olympic football squad, surely.
Well, no. It is a funny thing about the Olympic Games, and has been since going back to the original incarnation of the modern version, that celebrity is usually subsumed by the sport. Even Beckham, one of the most high profile athletes in the world, would have found that. Sure, he may have raised the profile of the British football team, but people would have paid to see them anyway. It’s not like we will see it again.
The Olympics are unique when it comes to high profile sportsmen. Superstars mingle with also rans in the Olympic village and, whilst no one could see Beckham bunking up with a British shot putter in a small flat in Stratford, most high profile athletes do. But then, he may have done just that, knowing that it would make for great publicity. And if there is one thing that Dave likes, it is publicity.
But, why would this discount him from playing for the team? Well, the answer to that is that he is no longer good enough. In fact, for all his status in the hierarchy of world football, if you asked the normal football fan who the greatest English player of the last fifteen years is, you would be hard pressed to find one that named Beckham. Yes, he had a good right foot and no one could question his commitment. But he always favoured that foot, never taking the man on, never coming inside on his left. Not so much a one trick pony as a pony with a very good trick.
The players who have been selected ahead of him, Giggs, Bellamy and Richards, all play at a higher level and are better players. The whole idea of entering the tournament was for the British team to win, not just to compete. Whilst a Beckham free kick may come in handy, those three overage players would bring more to the team.
But what about the effort that Beckham put into getting the Olympics here? Well, if that was the case, Seb Coe would be putting on his singlet and trying to win his third 1500m gold medal, Denise Lewis would try and roll back the years and dear old Bobby Charlton would be vying with Beckham for a place in the midfield. And don’t even begin to wonder what sport Tessa Jowell would have been lining up in.
You don’t give people places in the Olympics because of the amount of work they put in. In our particular culture, that’s what knighthoods are for. You give people places in the Olympics because they deserve it and, whilst we can all be grateful for the amount of work that Beckham did, what would have happened if we had won the 2018 World Cup bid. He would have had to be cryogenically frozen for six years. With David Cameron and Wills on either wing.
There are those who are wringing their hands and saying that they want reimbursing as they only bought tickets with the promise that Beckham was playing. I would take those tickets back like a shot as those people aren’t sports fans, they just want to ogle and nice looking man. And that is not the spirit of the Olympics. And if Beckham really wants to still be involved in the Games, maybe he can give out some bling to the winners.
Although he may have his hands full consoling his best mate.