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I'm so current, I'm tomorrow.
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"The most famous athlete in the world (except in the US)" is the title, and there's a big cover picture of him. I didn't have any change so I didn't buy it, but it's online. here: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/world/2003-05-08-beckham_x.htm



It has taken a movie in which he doesn't even appear (except in archive footage) for English soccer star David Beckham to score in the USA. While Bend It Like Beckham might now be filling theaters across the country, before it was released there was talk of changing the title for fear filmgoers wouldn't understand it. In the rest of the world, however, the name needed no explanation.

If David Beckham is relatively unknown in the USA, he is indisputably among the most recognized sports figures elsewhere in the world, where soccer — known every place but the USA as football — is the real king of sports. In Britain, tabloid photos of him and his wife, Victoria, former Spice Girl Posh, sell the most papers since Princess Diana. In Thailand, fans have erected a golden likeness in a Buddhist temple. Even in Baghdad, as the bronze statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Firdos Square last month, a young boy stomping on his head wore a Manchester United shirt emblazoned with Beckham's No. 7.

" 'E's an icon all right," says the news agent on Cromwell Road here as he displays a copy of Time magazine naming Beckham one of Europe's "amazing" heroes.

"And a family man, too."

In a way no other athlete has, Beckham, 28, combines sport, celebrity, entertainment and style to achieve a global span of unprecedented magnitude, says Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University. Cashmore teaches a standing-room-only course on football culture and is author of Beckham, a sociological study of the athlete's elevation to iconic status.

Beckham is 'worshiped'

"He is the purest sports celebrity in the history of the world," Cashmore says. "Tiger Woods? Michael Jordan? They redefined their sport, and they are respected. But Beckham has transcended that. He is worshiped. His fan base goes far beyond sports; many of them don't even care about football."

For most Americans, the low-budget, exuberant Bend It Like Beckham is their first introduction to "Becks," as he affectionately is called here. In the movie, Jess, an Indian high school girl in South London, dreams of playing football like Beckham, famed for his signature ability to "bend" his kicks around opponents. (Her mother has other ideas: learning to roll chapatis and getting married.)

Each night, Jess lies in bed talking to Beckham, whose picture is taped to her ceiling. The poster is the only real image of Beckham in the movie; the snippet of him and Victoria walking through Heathrow Airport used look-alikes.

Beckham, however, was "delighted" by the movie's support for women's soccer — a growing but still nascent sport in Britain — and approved of the use of his name in the title, agent Tony Stephens says. Beckham even planned to attend the London premiere but broke his foot in a game the previous day.

Oddly enough, as a player, Beckham probably doesn't fit into the top tier, alongside multitalented elite footballers such as Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldo, both players for Real Madrid — the team to which it is hotly rumored a disenchanted Beckham might soon be sold.

Ben Lyttleton, managing editor of Champions League football magazine, puts Beckham in the top five in the world; Mark Lawrenson, lead football pundit for the BBC and a former player for Liverpool, ranks him in the top dozen. "What he does, he does extremely well," Lawrenson says.

Brilliant free kicks

Beckham is known for his brilliant free kicks and precision crossing. He is able, Lawrenson says, to cross the ball from one side of the field to a player on the other "to the centimeter, under pressure, no matter where he plays or who he is playing."

"He makes you earn your money," says goalkeeper Brad Friedel, an American who plays here for Blackburn. Friedel considers Beckham, who also was captain of England's 2002 World Cup team, the best player at free kicks in the world.

His unique ability to bend the ball comes from being able to get his foot around the back of it and flick it so quickly that he whips it off the side of his foot — giving it "incredible pace and accuracy," Lyttleton says. Most players, he says, "just get under the ball and float it." And Beckham does it on the run, without setting it up.

For this, Manchester United, Britain's premier soccer club, has paid Beckham some £15 million (more than $22 million) to wear its red shirt for three years, through 2005. (France Football magazine declares Beckham's salary at $17 million a year.) The contract made Beckham, at the height of his athletic career with three or four more years to play, the world's highest-paid footballer.

Man U also is the biggest global sports franchise in the world, reported to be valued at $1 billion and selling everything from Beckham T-shirts to home mortgages. Two years ago the club announced an alliance with YankeeNets, the U.S. sports-based media company that owns the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets and has a marketing agreement with the New York Giants.

But Beckham's contract is peanuts compared to what he rakes in from endorsements and merchandising. It is estimated that Beckham takes home — that would be a neo-Georgian pile on 25 acres near London the tabloids have dubbed "Beckingham Palace" — as much as £12 million ($18 million) a year from his endorsements for Vodafone, Adidas and Pepsi, among others. He is so popular in Japan that his name is on Meiji candies and a line of health and beauty salons.

The Times of London put him on its 2003 "Rich List" on April 27 and declared him worth £50 million ($80 million). He now makes more money than the queen does. But other athletes still do better than Beckham does. According to a July 2002 issue of Forbes magazine, Woods had made $69 million in golf prize money and endorsements during the previous 12 months, auto racer Michael Schumacher $67 million. A handful of NBA and major league baseball players make at least $20 million a year in salary alone.

"All I ever wanted to do was kick a football about," Beckham says in his first autobiography, My World. (A second will be released in September.) He began at 3, with his father, a kitchen fitter, in the parks near their modest home in the working-class London suburb of Chingford. His mother was — and still is — a hairdresser. His parents still live in his childhood home; Beckham paid off their mortgage when he started making enough money. At 14, he was recruited for Man U's development league and five years later began playing on the team — the only club he wanted to play for, he says.

Four games in the USA

The team will play four exhibition games in the USA this summer — in New York, Seattle, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. All but the L.A. game are sold out, according to club spokesman Patrick Harverson.


By William West, AFP
Beckham recovered from a broken foot to lead England to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, atoning for an ejection in the 1998 tournament.


Beckham fans hope he'll be on the roster. The papers everywhere are rife with gossip that the Man U star will be sold — for as much as £35 million ($55 million). Initial reports had him going to Real Madrid, although officials of that club and of Man U have denied it. (Of course, Real Madrid officials also had denied having interest in Brazilian star Ronaldo — and then bought him.) Beckham, though, is quoted in the Manchester Evening News this week as saying he wants to stay with United: "I know (chief executive) Peter Kenyon and the manager are saying they want me to stay, and that's good enough for me. My affection for the club has never changed from the day I signed for United."

Coach Alex Ferguson's recent benching of Beckham, even after he had healed from a hamstring pull, has fueled the talk, as well as angered fans and, apparently, Beckham and his wife. Ferguson had said he was pleased with how other midfielders were playing, so he kept them in the starting lineup, with Beckham as a substitute.

After Ferguson refused to use him in a recent European Champions League playoff game until the last third of the game (during which Beckham quickly scored two goals), the player was seen angrily cruising the pricey high street shops in Manchester.

In a locker room tantrum a few months before, Ferguson had kicked a boot that wound up striking Beckham in the head. For days afterward, the papers pictured Beckham, his golden locks strategically held back by a plastic headband, with a bandage over the red gash above his left eye. Victoria Beckham was said to be livid.

By all accounts, Ferguson does not get on with Victoria, who he reportedly believes has converted his midfielder into a somber, fame-craving shopaholic. Indeed, most people credit the thermometer-thin spouse for the marketing smarts that have turned her husband into a mega global sports celebrity — and the two of them into Britain's new royalty.

Their merger, at a wedding in 1999 in which both sat on thrones, thrust Beckham into a higher orbit. He found himself entwined in the A-list of the entertainment world, vacationing with Elton John at the singer's home in France and throwing million-dollar parties with guest lists that include newscaster Sir David Frost, actress Joan Collins and TV's Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver.

Beckham's edgy, unerring sense of fashion — he has been called a black man in a white body — is keenly watched and emulated.

His hairstyles are as closely monitored as the weather and reported on front pages and Web sites around the world. When, on a whim, he suddenly shaved his head into a Mohawk two years ago, thousands of fans around the world did the same.

Ghetto chic, choirboy life

But if Beckham dresses ghetto chic, in real life he more closely resembles a choirboy. In a sport where hooliganism, racism and homophobia run rampant and where fans chant cheers so obscene they can't be printed (or so mean they shouldn't be), David Beckham pulses with a fresh ethos.

He proudly admits to being one-quarter Jewish and says he is honored to be a gay idol (he posed for the cover of the gay magazine Attitude). He doesn't drink much (except champagne), doesn't carouse with the lads, doesn't swear much and talks about "being in touch with my feminine side." (He was once famously pictured wearing a sarong, and he has been known to wear nail polish.)

The footballer unabashedly adores his wife and two sons, Brooklyn (so named after he was conceived on a trip to New York) and Romeo (said to be named after a rap artist).

The couple refuses to use a nanny, and Beckham even missed practice one day to take care of Brooklyn when the child was sick. (Ferguson dropped him from the next game.) The couple supports and endorses several children's charities.

Agent Stephens explains Beckham's near-beatification with what he calls the "3F" theory: family, football and fashion.

Somehow, he says, they add up exponentially so that David Beckham is even greater than the sum of his parts.

"He's just got this amazing universal appeal," BBC pundit Lawrenson says. "The men all want to be him, and the women all want to either shag him or be his mum-in-law."







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