Rod Liddle: The Dishonouring of David Beckham

By Liddle, Rod | The Spectator, February 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Rod Liddle: The Dishonouring of David Beckham


Liddle, Rod, The Spectator


How will we remember him, do you suppose? If you're a committed football fan, possibly for that exquisite chip from the halfway line which left Wimbledon's Neil Sullivan clutching at cold, empty air. A lovely goal, executed when he was only 21 years old, and which seemed to presage so much.

As a stalwart of a Manchester United side that was as successful as any British club has been? Or, if you're only an occasional football fan, for those moments when he was in an England shirt and either clutching victory from defeat (a free kick against Greece) or defeat from victory (a petulant kick at the calf of some cunning Argentinian, which saw him sent off).

Or perhaps you do not like football at all and will just remember the horrid, garish, tattooed celebritydom -- the chav bling, the preening self-regard and the sullen, talentless wife. It is an interesting question because it always occurred to me that David Beckham was good at only one thing in football: kicking the ball. He kicked the ball very well indeed. But he could do little else. As a winger, he had no pace or guile to beat his man. He was hopeless and sometimes cowardly (against Brazil, for example) in the tackle. He did not score many goals, nor were his assists fecund.

When George Best -- a real world talent -- was asked to appraise Beckham's abilities, he was, for once, genuinely mystified. Beckham was not a tenth of the player that Best was, except from the dead ball. But I always argued that he possessed what Best palpably did not, which was humility and commitment to a cause. He seemed to be talismanic, and his somewhat naive, even bovine, intensity seemed sincere. And yet now all this is in doubt, too.

He has been revealed as a grasping and bitter toady, via emails hacked -- possibly by the Russians, who are dead good at that sort of thing -- between Beckham and his PR monkey. Infuriated, for a start, that he had not been awarded a knighthood for his 'services' to charidee. The inference we take being that his charitable work was for one cause only -- honours, one after the other, the OBE not nearly enough. And we infer this not only because he baulked at giving Unicef his own cash, which we all might do, but because he railed against the honours committee for not knighting him. And also because he charged first-class air fares for his charitable appearances and scheduled them to ensure he would not have to pay UK rates of income tax on his astonishing £124 million wealth. And because he was spiteful about another recipient of meaningless British government baubles, the Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins.

What has she done, Beckham complained? What has she ever done? Well, sure, not much -- granted. Beckham also fumed that if he'd been an American he'd have got his knighthood years ago -- a quote which encapsulates both his sense of entitlement and his stunning ignorance. …

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