David Beckham called into the FIFA President’s Office in Cape Town this morning for a cordial meeting with Joseph S. Blatter ahead of the Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, at which England’s most-capped outfield player will act as an assistant.
The pair were engaged in conversation for half an hour and afterwards Beckham, one of the most famous faces in the game, spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about his memories of South Africa, the Final Draw, the upcoming FIFA World Cup, and of course his meeting with the FIFA President.
Prior to the meeting, Mr. Blatter had told the media that Beckham is "the best ambassador for Fair Play in football," adding: "I've been working in FIFA for 35 years and I know a good guy. He is one of the most important figures in football. He has a personal charisma that very few players have. He's a great man."
Those sentiments were appreciated by the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star, who revealed to the official website of FIFA and the FIFA World Cup that it was a meeting with arguably the most famous South African of all time that endures as the highlight of his professional career.
FIFA.com: David, it’s a welcome return to South Africa for you. What are the main memories of your previous visits here?
David Beckham: They’re extremely fond memories. When I was last here with England, I had the honour of meeting Nelson Mandela. That was the highlight of my career; to meet such a great man and a strong man and such a passionate man about sport and life will always stay with me. Then I played in the game and broke my arm! South Africa is such a great country and a sporting nation that deserves this World Cup. I think it will be a very memorable and special one.
What changes have you notice in the short time you’ve been here?
When you visit the country that a tournament is being held in before the event, you get a special feeling. As the time approaches, you notice that feeling intensify. As soon as I landed here in Cape Town, I noticed changes in the roads, as well as new hotels and it seemed as though the people’s excitement was tangible. There’s no better feeling than that.
It must be great for you that England are involved and you’ll be playing in your fourth FIFA World Cup?
Yes, of course. We did very well during the qualifying campaign, but there is still a lot of hard work to be done. We want to compete with the best and we have a perfect set-up with management staff, with backroom staff, with players and fans. We just have to come over here and do it in the tournament. We have definitely got the players who can do that.
You’re obviously here to assist with the Final Draw. Have you been well briefed yet?
Not yet, because I’ve only just arrived, but I have been briefed on the things that I’ll be doing, as well as the Draw. I’m absolutely honoured to be invited and be part of it, because it’s not every day that you get asked to be a part of something like this. My family are very proud, and so am I.
You just paid a visit to the FIFA President’s office. What did you chat to him about?
Family, which is always a nice topic to talk about. Family comes above anything we achieve in our careers and in our lives. We also talked about the 2010 World Cup and South Africa; his pride to see the World Cup here, as well as the people’s pride in hosting the event. And that’s understandable, because it’s the biggest sporting event in the world. It was a very relaxed, light-hearted conversation and it was good to speak to him. Mr. Blatter is not just the FIFA President and a powerful man in football, but he’s a very, very good person as well, which is more important.
I believe that there is a little link between the two of you and the number seven too?
Yes, there is. It’s his lucky number – and it’s always been pretty lucky for me too, so we have that in common!