The Beckham story

The Beckham story

David Beckham
David Beckham
2013, pp 288

Who is the real David Beckham in your mind? Is he the footballer who wore his heart on his sleeve while playing for some of the most famous teams in the world? Is he the fashion icon who is a brand in himself? Or, is he the one half of the celebrity couple that dominated news pages over the last decade, with the other half being the ex-spice girl Victoria?

A footballer of considerable ability but never a great or a genius, Beckham, most certainly, was a larger than life figure. With sheer dint of hard work, he climbed up the rungs and made a mark for himself, though more often than not, the work he put in was overshadowed by his celebrity status.

More words have been written and spoken about Beckham than many of his more talented contemporaries — blame it on the times we live in. As if those tomes weren’t enough comes the latest offering, and a heavy one at that. Simply titled David Beckham, this one is more of a pictorial tribute to a career that traversed countries and continents before ending in France last year, with title success at Paris St Germain.

Quite clearly, the attempt here is to milk the last ounces of his fame that will inevitably fade, now that he has called it quits from the game. What more can one write on the footballer that the world isn’t already aware of? As if to clarify that point, Beckham makes his goal clear at the outset itself: “When I retired in May on a special and emotional night in Paris, it meant that I could take a step back and reflect on what I had achieved in the game and what it took to get there,” he writes. “I didn’t want to do another autobiography, instead, I wanted to look at some of the images from my career and talk about what I was feeling at the time.”

The book, however, doesn’t clearly follow that pattern even as the images attempt to trace his journey from London to Manchester to the English national team and from Madrid to Los Angeles, Milan and that short but sweet stay in Paris. The big moments are all there — thanks to the wonderful work of photographers of our era — and of course, the not-so-memorable ones as well.

Looking back, a thread of redemption runs through the Beckham story. The game has often given this most passionate of its purveyor a chance to get up and atone for his errors. What would be the Beckham story without that rise and shine moment when he fired England to the World Cup Finals in 2002 after that disastrous red card against Argentina that sounded the death knell for his team in 1998? The dark days dotted with threats and abuses from angry fans form the poignant part of the Beckham tale and it is the high point of the book too, as it takes the reader through the emotional roller-coaster of a season that ended with Manchester United triumphing in the Premier League, the FA Cup as well as the Champions League in a thrilling climax.

As he tasted success on the pitch, Beckham also grew as a brand. But no effort is spared by the superstar to throw light on those hours and hours spent on the training pitch, underlining the fact that the sheen on the advertising hoardings was the direct result of the skills that delivered pinpoint crosses, telling corners and precise free-kicks game after game.

The Beckham package is incomplete without the family, with wife Victoria and his four kids, bringing in that emotional touch, taking over the baton from his ever-supportive parents. In this feel-good story, there is no place for the bitter moments that are too well-known to the footballing world. For precisely that reason, those moments are either glossed over or conveniently overlooked in this picture parade. Needless to say, those are mere aberrations for the true Beckham fan and as you go through this photographic journey, it is obvious that he is the intended target of this work. For the little boy who dreamt big, Beckham did go places, and for the fan who wants to rewind and relive that life, David Beckham provides the right button.