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Beckham speaks

Soccer star opens up a wide array of topics

Posted: Monday July 11, 2005 2:29PM; Updated: Monday July 11, 2005 2:29PM
David Beckham
The Beckhams are one of the world's top power couples.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While the NBA, NFL and NHL get ready for next year, and while baseball takes a quick break this week, Real Madrid, one of the biggest soccer teams in the world is coming to the U.S. later this week for a two-game set, one in Chicago and one in L.A. In the past decade, Madrid has fashioned themselves into the Yankees of international soccer, adding a different superstar to their roster every summer.

But the most glittering jewel in that crown is David Beckham, whose introductory press conference in Madrid was attended by 499 journalists and whose physical was aired on TV. He and his wife, Victoria, aka Posh Spice, form something of a whirlwind of fame. Posh and Becks are Nick and Jessica to the rest of the world, the bubblegum singer and the athletic guy in hip-hop gear. While Nick and Jess score the covers of US Weekly (which reminds me of this), People and InTouch, Posh and Becks hold down Hello!, Heat and OK, as well as the equivalents in each country in Europe and Asia.

When he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2003, Becks went from wearing ManU's famed No. 7 shirt to rocking No. 23. Some thought it was an homage to Michael Jordan, others believed it part of Real's nefarious plan to outfit their best players in prime numbers. The Beckham/M.J. connection is interesting, though Becks is like Michael Jordan times 10. Not necessarily talent-wise, because while Beckham is undeniably great, one of the top soccer players in the world, he's not the best to ever play his game, or even his position. What he is, though, even more so than Jordan, is an unparalleled marketing cannonball, mowing down any commerce in his path.

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Journalism has taken me many places and allowed me to do many amazing things. I've interviewed Jordan a few times, met Muhammad Ali, interviewed a President, rode in Stephon Marbury's Bentley around Coney Island, but nothing was quite as surreal as sitting down with Beckham a few months ago in Madrid for an upcoming story in Striker magazine. Once you sort through the haze of fame, he seems like a normal guy, someone you'd grab a pint with after work. But according to Becks, life's not always like that for him.

Enough of me. Here's Becks:

• When people have asked "would you ever change your lifestyle, would you ever change your life," I've always said no. And yeah, there's maybe certain aspects of it which I would change, like privacy with my children and things like that, but with everything I just have to realize how lucky I am to be in the position I am.

• When I was a kid, teachers at school used to turn around to me and say, "What do you want to do when you leave school?" I'd always say play football, since that was the only thing to me. And they'd say, "No, what do want to do for a real job?" But football is the only thing I ever wanted to do.

• One thing I've always said about America is that as a nation, the patriotism is so, so big. And being patriotic is the one thing I've always believed in and loved, and I think that's one of the reasons I love America so much, is that they're so patriotic about everything. Nearly every house in America, you've got the stars and stripes outside, and to me that's amazing.

• Hip-hop, that's the only music I've ever been into.

• My dad was the one that always used to push me, and when I didn't want to kick the ball with my other foot, he would push me to practice kicking with my other foot. And you know, you look back and you think, "God, he was hard." But when I look at everything I've achieved now, and everything he did and my mum did, the support that they gave me was brilliant.

• Even now, at 30 years old, I still want to get better at things. I still practice free kicks. People think I'm a great free-kick taker, and I believe I can take a pretty good free kick, but I still practice them. Practice is all I ever do.

• I've always been dedicated to football. When I was 11 or 12 years old, while my friends were out at parties with girls, I was home watching football (laughs) and looking forward to the game the next day.

• I love America, to be honest with you, and not just because I'm talking to you (laughs). I've probably gone to America the last five or six years in the summer when I got a break. The first couple of years I was able to walk around New York or Los Angeles and have no problem. But two years ago I went there and couldn't move, I couldn't get anywhere because of the press.

• Manchester United was the only English club I ever supported, and I still do, obviously. But my granddad, he was a Tottenham supporter, so every Christmas I used to get a Tottenham kit as well.

• Most of my inspiration for my adidas clothing line -- and my ideas don't get used a lot because they're slightly different -- comes from the hip-hop scene and basketball That's the sort of clothing I like to wear, and that's the sort of clothing I want to bring out. Obviously, you can't bring everything that's in the hip-hop community and basketball to soccer.

• I haven't got a normal life, and that's the hard part. But I've got a life that a lot of people would love, and I respect that a lot, because there's so many people that do look up to me as a footballer and as a person, I think it's important to put the right messages across, to kids especially. I have a hard life...(laughs) well, actually, it's not that hard a life. It's a great life. Yes, there's a lot that goes on in my life that I don't like. But the good things outweigh the bad things.

Game Of The Week

In honor of Monday's Home Run Derby, and since Ichiro refused to participate, here's a Japanese baseball home run derby game. It took me three games to hit a home run, but it can be done.

G8 Of The Week

So I was on vacation in Miami last weekend, taking antibiotics to fight a nasty staph infection in my elbow and under doctor's orders to stay out of direct sunlight -- in Miami. So I figured my Saturday would be spent watching Live 8 on MTV. Little did I know MTV and VH1 would show more of their VJs talking about how  incredible the concert was than footage of the actual concert. But this is why we have the Internet.

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.