Football Media Review: David Beckham under fire

DAVID BECKHAM has become one of the faces of Qatar 2022 – the TV cameras home in on him, he’s been at the centre of a number of controversies and the reaction to his role with the Qataris has not been well received. As a man who courts publicity wherever he goes, Beckham must have expected that his presence would attract attention, that his lucrative arrangements would be the target of criticism in this most unwanted of World Cups.

Some newspapers, such as the Daily Mirror, have suggested Beckham may have damaged his reputation beyond repair. Certainly, with a charity CV that includes UNICEF, Aids relief and sports development for children, Beckham’s eagerness to received vast sums of money from Qatar is contradictory to say the least. Social media, inevitably, has had its say: “Money means more to you than women’s safety…. It’s called greed. How much money do you need?”.

The artist Cold War Steve has created a piece of work that includes Beckham, in Peaky Blinders livery, rolling a wheelbarrow full of money along with other possible beneficiaries of the World Cup. The figures being mentioned vary, topping out at £ 150 million in the form of £ 15 million per year for 10 years.

Beckham’s arrangements are in stark contrast to his wife’s former Spice Girls colleague, Mel C, who has turned down the offer to sing at the World Cup as she would not be comfortable taking the money. The Daily Record wondered if this might create a rift between the Beckhams and the most savvy member of the band.

The Independent asks if “it is finally curtains for football’s golden boy….the man who could hitherto do no wrong?” The paper describes Beckham’s general demeanour as “sugary sweet but also achingly bland”.

The Athletic points out that Beckham has said very little about the key issues around Qatar, but prefers to offer the hope that “the World Cup will be a platform for progress and tolerance.” Such a soundbite is typical of this age of anodyne statements and any belief that appropriate due diligence has been done by meeting the country’s leaders is pure naivety. Nicholas McGeehan of human rights group Fair Square said he would ask Beckham, “where are you getting your information from. It is from the Qataris, it is far from independent. Ask Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.”

Beckham’s past position as a gay icon has been all but destroyed given Qatar’s complete intolerance of homosexuality. Peter Tatchell, the campaigner for gay rights, has urged Beckham to think again about the company he keeps.

But it could get worse for the former England captain. The Financial Times reported that Beckham is happy to talk to anyone who might be interested in buying Manchester United, his old club, with the aim of “lending credibility” to a bid. The Guardian, noting Beckham’s very neat facial hair, commented: “Let’s hope our manscaped figurehead finds a ship to lash himself to in a very short order, allowing him to once again set sail on lucrative tides.”

Rio Ferdinand, speaking to the Manchester Evening News, said Beckham did not have the cash to take over United but, “he would come with a consortium. He comes with people who do have deep pockets who have the ability to and go and execute on a deal like that.”

Meanwhile, the editor of Attitude magazine, which featured Beckham on its cover, has spoken out about the stunt performed by comedian Joe Lycett in which he promised to shred £ 10,000 if Beckham didn’t withdraw from Qatar. “The fall of David Beckham’s star has been fast and heavy. It’s a reminder that being an advocate for not just LGBTQ+ rights, but women’s rights, immigrant worker’s rights and any human rights should not be lip service. It’s not a trend to boost a person’s profile. Human rights are not a fashion statement to be made to generate coverage in the style pages of tomorrow’s magazines. They are not a new haircut to stir up media attention. They are real issues that affect the livelihood of billions of vulnerable people around the country.”

Sources: Daily Mirror, Independent, Daily Record, Manchester Evening News, Financial Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Athletic, Attitude.

Bobby and Jack Charlton: Two special brothers

JONATHAN Wilson’s latest book is another compelling read, underlining his place among the best historians of the game. Two Brothers is the bio of Bobby and Jack Charlton, both members of England’s triumphant 1966 World Cup team. It’s a story that has been told before, but never as comprehensively.

Jack is no longer with us and Bobby has dementia, a cruel condition that has hit so many of the Charlton brothers’ contemporaries. Wilson provides a well-rounded picture of their lives, but he also narrates the story with greater objectivity than most previous writers. Bobby, for example, comes across as a somewhat awkward character, a worrier and a pillar of the establishment. This persona doesn’t make him especially popular with some people, although nobody would ever deny that he is one of the greatest players ever produced by England.

Of course, Bobby’s life was not without its tragedy and Munich 1958 would have shaped his personality from a young age. Bobby was/is a Manchester United man through and through, a human being with values, morals and standards. Little wonder that he didn’t get on too well with George Best and even Denis Law. Bobby straddled post-war austerity Britain and the swinging sixties, but he looked very out of place in the latter. Best was the epitome of the 60s playboy, but Wilson presents an honest assessment of the Northern Ireland international, reflecting on the player’s self-pitying and lack of loyalty as well as his part in United’s early 1970s decline.

Bobby’s football career ended in 1973, although he had a brief flirtation with management. Jack, by contrast, was more suited to running a team. His career with Leeds United was every bit as interesting as Bobby’s at Old Trafford. Jack initially clashed with Don Revie, but was shaped into a formidable centre half. While Jack was all about function, Bobby “our kid”, was about form. Jack may have won a third of Bobby’s 106 England caps, but he played in a Leeds team that was every bit as good as Matt Busby’s third great United side of the mid-1960s. The Charltons’ England careers ended in the heat of Mexico in 1970.

They both retired in 1973, but few worried what would come next for Jack. Indeed, his managerial career ebbed and flowed according to his own designs, and he would later win the hearts of the Irish people in taking the Republic to the World Cup in 1990 and 1994.

Bobby, meanwhile, took a more ambassadorial role when it came to football, but his elder brother could never be as tactful or careful. Although Bobby was always respected for his football and place in the game, Jack was liked because he was straight forward, painfully honest, gregarious and amusing.

A decent book had to be written about Bobby and Jack Charlton and the only regret is that neither could add their own contribution to the story. Those that had the good fortune to see them play in their pomp will delight in recalling their colourful careers. Once again, Jonathan Wilson’s ability to illuminate is there for all to see, even if we are only too aware that Bobby and Jack have been household names for over half a century.