After starring and scoring for England at France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, David Beckham has told FIFA.com that he is relishing the prospect of appearing in his fourth FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa in June and July.
The 34-year-old midfielder’s chances of being in the Three Lions’ 23-man squad were recently discussed by Fabio Capello, who said: "Of course he will be included, if he plays [for AC Milan] and is well physically,” he said. “I don't look at ages. I look at skill and Beckham has a lot. He's serious, a real professional and he's really dedicated to making the World Cup squad."
In FIFA.com’s first Interview of the Week of what promises to be a special year, one of world football’s highest-profile players speaks about the highs and lows he has experienced at FIFA World Cups, his thoughts on current FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his hopes for Africa’s legacy post-2010.
You can watch a video of the interview by clicking on the link on the right hand side.
FIFA.com: David, you recently helped to launch adidas’s Jabulani, the Official Match Ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in Cape Town. Have you had a chance to practice with it yet – and what do you think of it?
David Beckham: Yes, I had a chance to practise with it a few months ago. It’s always nice to see adidas’s ideas before everyone else does and I think it’s great. The movement, the accuracy, the feel, the look of the ball is perfect – it’s really for the World Cup.
With 115 caps for England over the past 13 years – what changes have you noticed in international football during that time?
There have been many changes over the years: the game has got faster, the technology has got better. You obviously see changes in the play in terms of tactics, the boots and balls, but football’s all about development and change.
Football changes lives. It changes people’s attitudes and I think this World Cup will bring exposure to certain things. To some extent it already has.
What does playing in the FIFA World Cup mean to you?
It’s the biggest footballing competition in the world, so any player who is lucky enough to be part of a World Cup knows how special it really is. I’ve been lucky to have played in three and hopefully I’ll be luckier still to play in a fourth. It really is an incredible feeling.
What are your first recollections of watching the FIFA World Cup as a boy?
My first memories are of watching Bryan Robson score goals [against France at Spain 1982] and be as brave as he was on the pitch. He was my hero and everything he did in his career, I wanted to emulate – and I’ve been lucky enough to do that.
The World Cup also been a tournament which has given you some lows. If you take a moment to consider England’s exits to Argentina in 1998, Brazil in 2002 and Portugal four years ago, which one hurt the most?
Every one. You can’t describe the feeling when you get knocked out of a competition. The expectations are so high on us as a country and as a team, so when you do get knocked out it’s so disappointing. So, every single time hurts the same.
You’ve played and scored in three FIFA World Cup finals so far, but which match holds the best memories for you?
On a personal note I’d have to say the game against Argentina in 2002, where I scored the penalty. It’s always special to beat your rivals, but obviously four years earlier I got sent off against them and we were beaten on penalties. To score the winning goal against them four years later was extremely special.
He’s one of the best players I’ve played against and also one of the finest players I’ve ever seen. He’s the closest player to Maradona that you can get.
Argentina now have a player in their ranks, Lionel Messi, who has recently been voted as the FIFA World Player of the Year. What are your thoughts about him?
Without doubt, he’s one of the best players I’ve played against and also one of the finest players I’ve ever seen. For a little player, he’s so talented. He’s the closest player to Maradona that you can get, and he even plays in a similar passionate way too. He’s successful and a really good person as well. I’m sure he’ll go on to be even more successful in the future.
Who do you think will be the key man for England this year, and why?
I think we’ve got many key players in our team: Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand – we’ve got players all the way through our team who are exceptional. We’re lucky to have such a talented group of players.
It will also be the first taste of a FIFA World Cup for Fabio Capello. After working with him both at Real Madrid and now England, how do you think he’ll enjoy the experience?
Fabio Capello is a special manager. He has so much experience. He knows how to win games and he knows how to win competitions.I’m sure he’ll relish the time when he walks out as England manager to take charge of the team for his first match at a World Cup. To sit on the sideline and watch his team, I’m sure will be a proud moment for him.
You’re involved with a number of charity campaigns such as UNICEF and Malaria No More, which have huge links with Africa. What do you hope this FIFA World Cup will bring to South Africa and the African continent?
Football changes lives. It changes people’s attitudes and I think this World Cup will bring exposure to certain things. To some extent it already has. In Cape Town I visited a hospital where I met women and children with HIV – and that really touched me. So I hope that the battle against diseases like that will be in the public eye. The World Cup will also bring a lot of money to South Africa, which may help to regenerate certain parts of this country.