Thursday, May 16, 2013


They're dropping like ninepins. The last Pope, the Dutch Queen, Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes - and now today the ultimate icon of our age has announced his retirement.

At the age of 38, David Beckham is to retire from football.

I can't remember how many times I wateched him in the red of United at Old Trafford. Even when he left, even when his passion seemed to dim for a while, nothing could take away from the memory of his precision passing, his peerless crossing of the ball, his match-winning free kicks, and the odd wonder goal.

This is a favourite game of mine. I was there with my mate Chris, a West Ham supporter. Being with me in the North Stand (as then was) Chris sat on his hands as Paolo Wanchope scored, and then stood and cheered with the rest of us as United put seven past his own team.

And what a display of United in that period it was: a Scholes hat-trick, a Beckham free kick, an Andy Cole goal and the obligatory strike from super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Two of the goals come from Beckham crosses, pinging in bang on target with fearless accuracy from the dead ball line.

It's easy to look at DB and smirk about the voice, the haircuts, the tattoos, the wife, the decline of his powers as he passed thirty.

But I have to question that attitude.

When we require our heroes to be more than they are (so a footballer must be intelligent, but heaven forbid he's an intellectual) don't we make a crucial mistake? Surely we stop enjoying what makes someone so special, looking at what they are and instead we look at what they are not. We fail to see remarkable positives and stare at a void that shouldn't ever take our attention. "Beethoven - I mean, yes, he could play piano, and he wrote some interesting music, but he totally failed to grasp his potential with the Indian market."

No-one wins on that score. The kicks are free, but pointless, and the goal behind them is purely destructive.

David Beckham inspired a million kids - more in all probability. He may not have been quite the greatest footballer ever, but he was right up there. Watching him play was a joy. And I am grateful. I will always value the memories I have of his distinctive style and that red, United no.7 shirt on his back.

He inspired me, gave me great joy, and the world has changed with the end of his playing years. Thanks David. I wish you well for whatever you do next.

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