Farewell, David Beckham!

Before we start discussing David Beckham, I want you to watch a small clip. Even if you may have seen it, the football romantic within you can never say no to any number of replays of this beautiful pass.

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This is only one of the many pin-point crosses which Beckham has delivered over the course of his career – that too when it mattered the most. Maybe it’s time to re-visit that night at Camp Nou in 1999.

“I remember that, even though the pitch at the Nou Camp is so big, you hardly have any room down by the flags to take corners. I saw Peter come charging up into the Bayern area and tried to steady myself. Don’t mess this up. Just float it in and try to put it in a dangerous over.

 I sent it over. The ball bounced out to Giggsy. He mis-hit it and it bounced through to Teddy Sheringham, the other sub, who knocked it in. Teddy was so close to being offside. But he wasn’t. And we were level, 1-1. Everybody went up. ”

Then came the moment which won us, Manchester United, our first Champions League trophy, and treble, under Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Almost at once, we won another corner. It was all happening so quickly that, when I went over to take it, I could see United supporters still jumping around, shouting into their mobile phones, and celebrating Teddy’s goal. I think the Bayern players were still trying to get to grips with what has just happened, too. In the blink of an eye, I’d whipped the ball over and Ole had got to it and we’d scored again.”

Reading it out makes it sound so simple, doesn’t it? However, only a player of Beckham’s calibre can tell you why it is everything but simple to be able to put the ball exactly where you want it. It is about staying back after training to practice shooting and crossing, kick after kick after kick. It is about sweating it out on the training ground so that it becomes second nature to you during an actual game. It is all about your love for the sport; and your love for the sport alone.

“Ever since I was a boy, playing until it was too dark to see in Chester Lane, I’ve always felt most comfortable – most myself – when I was playing football. Whatever else I had on my mind, wherever I was and whoever I was with, I could just lose myself in a game.”

The media and football supporters in general tend to associate the words ‘sex-symbol’, ‘shirt-seller’ and ‘fashion icon’ with David Beckham. He was that guy whose hairstyle created trends worldwide. I doubt the ‘Mohawk’ ever got so much attention as it did during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. However, only a few realize what David Beckham brought to a team. Ask them, those Manchester United supporters, they know it very well. In his 265 Premier League appearances, Beckham has a whopping 152 assists to his name! Only Giggs and Lampard have more in the Premier League (273 and 165 respectively) but with each having more than double the number of appearances as that of Beckham. Adding his 62 goals to the numbers, we can see that Beckham has contributed towards 214 goals in those 265 appearances. Insane statistics, which speak for themselves! They show his love for creating chances, above all. Hell, after having scored his first goal for Real Madrid in his first game at the Bernabeu; Beckham thought about that goal after the game:

“Ronaldo crossing for me to score? That wasn’t in the brochure, was it? Surely I’d come to the Bernabeu to make chances for him!”

Of course, he had an eye for the spectacular. It comes naturally when you are practising in an out to become one of the best dead-ball specialists in the world. He caught the public eye in full force when he scored that goal against Wimbledon on the first day of the 1996-97 season. He was wearing a pair of Adidas Predators in that game, which were actually meant for a certain Charlie Miller at Glasgow Rangers. Adidas had mistakenly sent them to Beckham. Talk about the comedy of errors!

Beckham has been a great servant for England as well. His 115 appearances, of which he was named captain in 59, is an England record for an outfield player. Only goalkeeper Peter Shilton has more with 125. Nevertheless, he still divided opinion like no other player. The pain of St. Etienne remained fresh in the hearts of England supporters for a fair few years. However, Beckham never gave up on England. He never gave up on his dream, which was to play for the Three Lions as long as he could. He poured his heart out on the field, pounded every blade of grass each time he played for his country. His persistence was rewarded, and he found redemption in 2001, against Greece. It was the last game of their qualifying campaign and England needed a draw at the least. In keeping with their usual benevolence, they found Greece leading 2-1 at the end of 90 minutes with 4 minutes of injury time still to be played. Beckham scored a sensational free-kick equalizer with virtually the last kick of the match and took England through to the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The celebration which followed showed the intensity of his passion for England.

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Some say that he did not have a left foot. He was not technically skilled or gifted like many of the players of his generation. He did not have the pace to beat defenders, but in fairness, he didn’t need it. He would simply send the ball over them or around them. He had a blessed right foot, the likes of which we may not see again, in a long time. He had a fierce dedication to the sport which honestly could not get any better.

“If I had to describe myself as a player, I’d put my work rate pretty high on the list of things I will always try to bring to a team…I’ve always understood that chasing back and getting tackles in – fighting for the team – are important parts of the game and that supporters want to see players doing it. I’d been brought up with that attitude at United.”

For most football supporters, especially Manchester United supporters, David Beckham was the main draw towards the game. He made people fall in love with the game. Beckham is one of those players, no matter which club you support, you just cannot help but admire and respect. With Beckham’s retirement, only one player from the ‘Class of 92’ remains, Ryan Giggs. Farewell, David Beckham. The movie based on your name was a mere namesake.

Nobody will ever be able to ‘Bend it like Beckham’

Parashar Thanki

Manchester United. Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo. Step-over maniac. Coffee aficionado. Prefers playing sports to watching them. Anyday.