There are very few names or faces on this planet as recognisable as that of David Beckham. With a celebrity that so often breaks through the boundaries of the football field, FIFA.com took the time to talk to the former England captain and bring the conversation back down to pitch-level.
In an exclusive interview just outside of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital Port of Spain, where Beckham was on hand for the final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, the topics of discussion ranged from improvements in Major League Soccer, his hopes of playing for England again and how he’s feeling after six months out of the game with serious injury.
FIFA.com: David, you were in the Hasely Crawford Stadium this weekend to watch Korea Republic beat Japan and be crowned FIFA U-17 women’s world champions. How did you find the game?
David Beckham: It was good; I was pleasantly surprised. The standard of play was very strong. There were a lot of people in the stadium that really enjoyed the game and I was one of them. Some tough tackles were flying in, the passing was good. There were a few skilful players out on the pitch and a couple of absolutely cracking goals too.
You returned to the LA Galaxy starting XI for the first time on Friday after over six months out with injury. How does it feel to be back after so long out of the game?
I played 20 minutes in my first game, then 40 the next. I felt good enough to start the game against New York. I was a little surprised that I stayed out there for the full 90 minutes, but it’s great to be on from the start again. It’s really tough being out for six months and not being able to play.
The Achilles tendon rupture meant you missed playing for England at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, what would have been your fourth finals. How much of a blow was it?
It’s really difficult being out for so long and not being able to play, because it’s something I genuinely love to do. When you get an injury that keeps you out for a long stretch, you have to stay focussed on getting yourself better and it’s always a relief when you get back to doing what you love.
You lost that game on Friday to Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez’s New York, in a performance your team-mate Landon Donovan called “uninspired.” The Galaxy is still in first place, but do you think you can fend off these always-improving Red Bulls?
I believe that we can pull through and go all the way to win the league, but we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did that night. We lost the game in the first half; we didn’t play with any passion or intensity and this is a big problem. But we need to keep things in perspective and focus. We’ve already qualified for the play-offs. Now we need to keep it going to clinch first place and give ourselves home-pitch advantage in the first round.
A lot has been made about recent comments by England coach Fabio Capello hinting that your international career may finally be over at 115 caps and 35 years of age. Have we seen the last of Beckham in an England shirt?
No, I wouldn’t say that. But whether it’s over or not is not really down to me. I want to continue to be available to play for England. That’s all I can do. I am passionate about playing for my country and I have been for 15 years now. Ever since I was a little kid all I ever wanted to do was to play for my country. Whether the road is over or not, I don’t really know, but I will continue to work hard to get my fitness right because that’s the important bit at the moment. Once I’ve done that, we’ll know more.
Do you think the English national team is moving in the right direction?
I hope England continue to push on and keep bringing young players through; this is an important thing for the future of English football at international level.
You’ve gone out on loan twice in the MLS close season to AC Milan. Will you go back to Europe again when the season ends in November?
I don’t think so. I’ll never say never, but after my injury I need to really focus on getting my full fitness back. Physically I need to get myself back in order after a very long time out of the game. I can’t say for sure, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Do you think Major League Soccer will ever be one of the elite leagues in world football?
I think MLS has the possibility of being one of the top leagues in the world. You have new clubs popping up every year. Also, you have new players coming over from the world’s biggest leagues. Just this year you had Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry come to MLS, and these are big names in the game. If teams continue to bridge that gap and bring top quality players from Europe in it can definitely get up there with some of the biggest leagues in the world.
It’s a long way from your working-class roots in east London to superstardom and Beverly Hills. Can you talk a little bit about what the game of football has given you?
The game has given me everything. I owe a tremendous amount to the game. The biggest thing it’s given me is the opportunity to see the world, and have the experience of playing in some of the biggest leagues in the world and with some of the best teams in the world. It’s given me the chance to come to places like Trinidad and give back to kids with my Academy, and hopefully some of these young kids can go on to have a similar kind of experience. These are the things that I cherish about all these years I’ve been playing.