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.

Every day, the folly of Qatar 2022 is exposed

THE WORLD Cup is underway and Ecuador have inflicted the first defeat on the hosts, the only home nation to be beaten in their opening game in the competition’s history. If the sceptics want some consolation about Qatar’s tarnished World Cup, it will surely be an early exit and no more than three games. The Asian champions, overawed and unable to rise to the occasion, were that ineffective.

Gianni Infantino has been digging himself into a hole for weeks and on the eve of the first game, made an eccentric, outrageous and desperate justification speech. Who the hell wrote this for him? He was at it again when he grabbed a microphone, Karaoke style and insisted: “Football unites the world and now let’s welcome the teams and let the show begin. All the best to everyone.”

Meanwhile, Qatar has prevented fans from enjoying a drink unless they are kettled into the FIFA fan parks, paying extortionate prices in an easily-managed camp. The accommodation, almost mirroring migrant workers’ centres, are ludicrously spartan, expensive and primitive. Qatar may consider they are welcoming the world but there are simply treating it with contempt. And still they claim inclusiveness is their aim – does anybody really believe any of this nonsense?

World Cups used to be about carnival, about different nationalities mixing with each other, raising a glass and sharing experiences. Yes, there were also those that treated the football jamboree as an opportunity to behave like Neanderthals, but the normal, rational fan enjoyed the pot-pourri of different cultures present in the name of football. Qatar, which is scarcely a destination of choice for most folk, doesn’t really know what it is hosting – you can buy shameful celebrity endorsement, as we have seen, but does Qatar really understand the cultural and social significance?

It is early days, but it is feasible Qatar will be tested by the irrational emotions and passions of the game. Imagine if England struggle in their group games and the fans are disappointed. Supporters that have experienced the limitations. Will we see a reaction that forces the local security services to act? With so many people in a relatively confined space, how will Qatar react to crowd violence?

The World Cup will be a success, because we will be told that it was a success. FIFA will tell us, Qatar will tell us and enough celebrity puppets will come to the fore to say they had a “wonderful time”. But the truth is, FIFA have facilitated sportswashing and as the sport’s governing body, this act of folly is irresponsible and not in the best interests of the sport. Admittedly, some clubs are also guilty of this, but the difference is FIFA should be acting as guardians and gatekeepers.

Qatar has to realise scores of people will be digging for dirt and bad news will filter from the middle east every day of the World Cup. Why? Because that’s their job and it also helps justify them being there. Many journalists are uncomfortable about going to Qatar, and rightly so. Whether it all passes without a hitch or not, Qatar 2022 is simply wrong.