Golden balls heads to Hollywood

MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP LONDON — You have to take off your hat (or should that be baseball cap?) to David Beckham. His career in Europe was in danger of coming to an undignified end. Dropped from the England squad, languishing on the sidelines at Real Madrid with none of the big English clubs interested in bringing ...

604885_beckham_05.jpg
604885_beckham_05.jpg

MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP

LONDON — You have to take off your hat (or should that be baseball cap?) to David Beckham.

His career in Europe was in danger of coming to an undignified end. Dropped from the England squad, languishing on the sidelines at Real Madrid with none of the big English clubs interested in bringing him home, he crosses the pond to become the highest paid sportsman in the New World.



MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP

LONDON — You have to take off your hat (or should that be baseball cap?) to David Beckham.

His career in Europe was in danger of coming to an undignified end. Dropped from the England squad, languishing on the sidelines at Real Madrid with none of the big English clubs interested in bringing him home, he crosses the pond to become the highest paid sportsman in the New World.

The brutal truth, which even his new and improved wage packet can’t hide, is that Beckham is just too slow to succeed at the very top level now. During the World Cup, every England move slowed to a snail’s pace once Beckham got involved. But his dead ball skills are still world class, good enough to allow England to grind out some results they barely deserved.

Beckham’s L.A. mission is two-fold: To establish football as a major U.S. sport, and to put Posh n’ Becks on the list of A-list celebrity couples. I’d wager that he’ll have more success with the former than the latter. There’s a large untapped market for “soccer” in the U.S., as the interest in the World Cup and the sellouts that accompany the visits of major European teams to the States demonstrate. MLS has gotten better since I sat through my first dreadful game in 2001, but it’s still neither good enough nor sexy enough.

Beckham’s star power should change all that. He excels in the areas of the game that are easiest for new fans to appreciate. MLS now must carry on importing good young players from the rest of the Americas, as these older star players can’t carry a team on their own and will need someone to do their running for them.

Celeb-wise, I fear that Beckham is just too dull to make it big in LA (anyone who has heard him being interviewed will know where I coming from). The hold of the Beckhams over the UK media was very much a product of the times: The most iconic sportsman in the country matched up with a member of the zeitgeist-defining pop group. And Becks—with his sarongs, grooming products and conspicuous love for his children—seemed to sum up the new man phenomenon. I don’t see what gives him a unique selling point in the American market today. Indeed, his return to the front pages of the British tabloids this week, giving Kate Middleton a deserved break, had the distinct whiff of nostalgia about it. As for Victoria (Posh), skinny, fashionable women who did something once are two-a-penny in Hollywood.

Thinking about Beckham’s lucrative American swansong, one can’t help but wonder if another Englishman coming towards the end of his career isn’t contemplating doing something similar?

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.