Posted: Monday August 14, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Monday August 14, 2006 12:53PM
David Beckham was captain for 58 of the 94 games he played for England.
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I learned that David Beckham had been dropped from the English national soccer team while riding the elevator at work late last week. Receiving news while trapped in a metal box is nothing new in this age of aggressive technology. What was surprising, though, was learning that one of the best English players of his generation -- if not the best -- was being dumped in such an ignominious fashion. An announcement of this magnitude deserved at least a podcast or its own blog.
If I'm not mistaken, this is the same David Beckham who only a few weeks ago scored half of all the goals England managed during the World Cup, right? And just like that, he's gone?
Since entering the soccer world in the early 1990s, Beckham has been worshipped and reviled, mostly by the same people. Consider that in just over a decade, Beckham has gone from an anonymous member of Manchester United's youth teams to the most recognized athlete on the planet. This doesn't mean he's the best athlete in the world -- it just means that in the end, Beckham has been the best at playing the athlete. He was never the best soccer player alive, and there were many times when he wasn't the best player on his team. But he moisturized well, got some highlights and grew his hair out, married a rock star and moved to Spain, and we just couldn't get enough. As the Sunday Mirror noted, Beckham was "England's first multi-media captain."
No serious male soccer fans I know will admit to being a Beckham fan -- he's the soccer version of Kelly Clarkson, a singer almost all men like but won't admit to listening to. I suppose his off-the-pitch persona is a bit too much for some people, but I find his on-field play magnetic, maybe because as talented a soccer player as he is, he's never been fully accepted as a top-tier footballer.
George Best famously said of Becks, "He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right." Harsh as it is, Best is mostly correct, at least in his analysis of Beckham's faults. But Best neglected to mention Beckham's strengths, most notably his right foot, which has curved, sprayed and bent soccer balls past defenses and goalkeepers all over Europe. And of course, it was rather productive two months ago in Germany.
Beckham's departure was engineered by new England manager Steve McClaren, who bore a striking resemblance to Ron Weasley as a youngster. This was McClaren's first major move since taking over as England's boss.