David Beckham


A Window into the Beckham Brilliance

Netflix recently released a four-part documentary called Beckham and every person I knew said they found it completely captivating. I started watching it on a Saturday night and binge-watched it to the end. Sleep deprivation was eclipsed by how deeply I found myself drawn into the depths of this wonderfully balanced portrayal of a brilliant and complex life story. Whatever preconceived notions I might have had were tempered by the filmmakers thorough and fair coverage of the World Cup scandals, the coaches, the referees, and the vitriol that the golden boy of soccer, David Beckham, faced and endured for so long.

More than that, this was an intimately truthful and rare window into the Beckham family. By the end of the documentary, one gains a clear understanding into what has kept them united and together for so long. It was refreshing to listen to Victoria Adams Beckham’s side of the story. The former Spice Girl was candidly honest about every facet of her relationship with the man who is truly the love of her life.

“This is the 10-year anniversary of when I retired,” Beckham told Netflix. “This documentary is not just about my football career, but it’s about my family; it’s about being married to a Spice Girl, and my journey, really. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s been special making it.”

Beckham was not just athletically talented growing up. He had a work ethic second to none, and we learn, too, about the levels of perfectionism that he applies to every aspect of his life. In learning about all Beckham’s idiosyncrasies, we gain an appreciation into why he has had such a brilliant soccer career. We also learn about his relationships with team players and members of opposing teams. Not one person had a bad word to say about him. Even when he was red carded for kicking Diego Simeone during the 1998 World Cup between Argentina and England – Simeone defended Beckham in an interview afterwards, saying that the referee reacted too harshly. He didn’t believe that Beckham deserved the red card.

And yet that incident almost ruined Beckham’s life. He became the most hated man in Britain – blamed for his team’s loss in that 1998 World Cup – even though the score was 2-2 and England lost in the penalty shootout that had nothing whatsoever to do with Beckham. The Beckhams reflect on the aftermath of David’s infamous red card and talk about the death threats and harassment that followed. The backlash was so cruel and severe that Beckham entered one of the darkest phases of his life in which depression gripped him night and day. Only someone on the world stage could understand the magnitude of what he faced.

Beckham was targeted after being sent off for lashing out against Diego Simeone in the round of 16 stage defeat to Argentina when he was 23.

On a brighter note, this episode also tells the story of the birth of David and Victoria’s first child, Brooklyn, and intimate photos and videos from their wedding in 1999 are shared.

Beckham grew up in East London in a working-class family, and his childhood was taken up by hours of dedicated persistence and drive on the soccer field. His dreams were realized when he joined Manchester United – a team he stayed with for 11 years – and it was his singular brilliance that led them to become the best soccer team in the world. Beckham was known for his deadly kick accuracy and his ability to kick the ball from the side of the field to a waiting team player who then booted it straight into the goals. His flair was equal to his precision accuracy.

As his career took off, he met Victoria Adams – otherwise known as Posh – and that’s where the media and fans began to make a lot of erroneous assumptions about the couple. The so-called ‘match made in heaven’ became fodder for gossip, and the paparazzi imposed severe restrictions on their ability to go anywhere. Even their Swiss ski retreat was besieged by an onslaught of cameras and a level of intrusiveness that would have tested anybody’s resilience.

The Beckhams appeared to be in crisis when David went to play for Real Madrid. The distance away from his family took a toll, and the press intrusion was at an all-time high. When Victoria made the decision to join her husband in Madrid, rumors exploded about an affair that David had been having. In this film, the enduring love between the Beckhams is sensitively explored, and we gain insight into the sacrifices that have been made to survive the complexities of fame.

We gain valuable insight into the intensity that professional athletes face on the world stage in Episode 3 of the series. With so much at stake, and everyone firing emotions on such powerful cylinders, it’s no wonder that relationships get tested severely. Athletes are also commodities that are bought and sold across the world. When Beckham fell out with his Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, he was literally sold to Spain! When tensions reach a breaking point, managers and coaches sell their athletes to the highest bidders.

By the end of the documentary, Episode 4, Beckham reflects on the latter part of his career before retirement in 2013. Victoria describes it as the hardest phase of their marriage for so many highly charged reasons. Any professional athlete will be able to relate to the devastating decision to finally retire from a sport that has been the greatest passion of their life. It is especially difficult in that athletes must retire far earlier than people who are accountants, teachers or lawyers. Nobody in those professions calls it quits in their 30s. The extreme physical demands of playing a sport at international levels exacts a toll that requires the human body to surrender before injuries become so serious that a person’s quality of life is compromised. A 45-year-old is rarely able to compete with an athlete who has the cardiovascular fitness level of a 19-year-old.

Especially touching in Episode 4 is our introduction to the Beckham’s four children, Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper. It’s a very intimate picture of a typical family weekend in which a lot of love and humor abound. What is so refreshing is how well adjusted and happy the Beckham children appear to be. When your dad is an athletic and pop culture icon, children face pressures that require dedicated parenting to stay on the straight and narrow.

David Beckman’s business decisions after his 2013 soccer playing retirement have proved that he’s also as brilliant off the field as he is on. This astute businessman understands how to import key superstars and put them into environments that will produce a special kind of combustible energy.

Beckham co-owns and is president of Inter Miami (full name: Club Internacional de Futbol Miami), a relatively new soccer team established in Florida in 2018, a state that celebrates the Latino culture’s love of the sport. The team was established as the 25th franchise in Major League Soccer (MLS) and started playing in the American League in the 2020 season.

Beckham has strategically taken full advantage of the respect he holds from the best players in the world – wasting no time in acquiring one of the greatest soccer players of all time to Inter Miami, Lionel Messi, who joined the team in 2019. Bringing Messi across from Europe was a gargantuan feat. The former Barcelona player was joined by another star Barcelona player, Sergio Busquets. Also joining this star-studded team are Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba.

There is no question that David Beckham’s abilities on the soccer field have transcended to every facet of life. Just as great sports players have an uncanny ability to anticipate what is about to unfold on the sports field, Beckham continues to position himself and the people around him to the best possible advantage. He is as strategically fascinating on the field as he is – off the field. His story will continue to unfold in the most captivating ways. Beckham’s continued successes can be viewed on Apple TV+ in the documentary, Messi Meets America.

Acknowledgments: Beckham (Limited Series: Netflix); Messi Meets America (Apple TV+).

David Beckham’s last game. Photo: REUTERS