Friday, February 1, 2013

David Beckham: All For Charity?

Inside Left kicks off Guest Post February with blog regular, Richie Moran. The anti-racist stalwart and ex-pro footballer looks at David Beckham's move to PSG and can't help but feel a little cynical.

So once again, when there are far more fundamentally important things going on in the world, the ultimate self-publicist has once more pulled off perhaps his greatest PR stunt (strange how cockney rhyming slang suddenly springs to mind) to ensure that he dominates the front and back pages.
 
As laudable and altruistic as David Beckham may initially appear after announcing that he will donate five months wages to a Parisian children's charity on signing a short term deal at Paris St. Germain (arguably now the worlds richest club) lest we forget, every single breath this man (and his wife) take is calculated to ensure their name remains in the ascendancy.
 
From the Alice band worn to ensure that everyone could see the stitches required when he copped a boot in the boat race from Alex Ferguson, through the vomit inducing corn rows when he went to meet the worlds greatest living human being, Nelson Mandela, to his orchestrated tearful world cup resignation as captain of England (and much more) it is all about 'Brand Beckham' and nothing else (although giving Cruz a girl's name was a bit of a faux pas if you'll pardon my French)!
 
I'm sure it has not occurred to him (or those who advise him) that this will inevitably restart the pathetic clamour to make him "Sir" David Beckham, although his previous mission to be captain of the Great Britain football team at the 2012 Olympics went a bit Pete Tong.
 
So let's cut to the chase regarding his benevolence. He has apparently signed for five months, whilst under his own admission being some weeks away from match fitness. He signed on a free transfer, which generally means a huge signing on fee, in the case of such a profile, possibly more, or at least equitable, to his salary. As the owners of PSG are the Qatar Sports Investment (Qatar of course, being the hosts of the 2022 World Cup) there has already been talk of an ambassadorial role which I'm fairly sure will not be free and gratis. And it is surely not inconceivable that any such payments could be nestling softly in tax free offshore bank accounts.
 
Although I don't profess a great knowledge of French tax laws, there is of course the possibility that 75% of said salary would have gone to the French government in tax and it may be that having earned so much out of the country over the last several years, Beckham may only be able to stay in the UK for 90 days.
 
As our politicians, multi-national companies, shrewd footballers such as Michael Ballack (who whilst at Chelsea was allegedly paid in Euros and paid little if any tax) and the occasional comedian know there are many ways to surmount such trivial obstacles.
 
Again if I was overly cynical I would venture to suggest that the infamous "image rights" were part of the package (remember his wife trying to sue Peterborough to retain the rights to the nickname Posh) and I wouldn't be surprised if every shirt bearing his name contributes to the Beckham coffers. He apparently, during the press conference (which with offers on the table for months he chose to hold on the last day of the transfer window, funny that) described himself as part of a project.
 
When I played, and throughout my working life, I gave part of my salary (which was slightly less than his) to various charities. I still belong to and support various organisations, close to my heart and beliefs, which I have never felt necessary to have publicised. There are many current and ex-players such as George Weah, Patrick Vieira, Andy Cole, Didier Drogba and even Craig Bellamy who have opened academies in Africa and tried to bring peace to their countries who are deserving of far more respect than this deed. I have a wonderful friend, who is an optometrist, who I found out quite by accident goes to Africa every year to operate on people who can't afford it, completely self-funded, yet seeks no publicity or praise.
 
What about people such as Rachel Corrie (killed by an Israeli bulldozer trying to protect Palestinian homes) and Malala Yousafzai (shot in the head for advocating education for Pakistani women)? Those who belong to Greenpeace, who regularly risk their lives to make the world a better place for all, even those who vehemently oppose them These are proper selfless and yes, HEROIC acts.
 
I even find Beckham's comments about how he couldn't play in the Premiership for anyone other than Manchester United disingenuous in the extreme. I do not doubt that he had offers, but obviously not from clubs that suited his profile or image. I also firmly believe that he is aware that (with no disrespect) having spent so long playing in a league that doesn't meet the standard of the self-proclaimed "best league in the world" he would be found out.
 
While I don't doubt that Beckham is indeed a consummate professional, let's examine his actual ability. He undoubtedly possesses a great right foot, but no better or more accurate than so many before or since.
 
His passing is good (although Iniesta or Xavi he ain't) and I can name many midfielders of his era who were far better, including his flame-haired team mate at Manchester United. At Real Madrid he was regularly eclipsed by the great Zidane and even by Michael Owen in his brief spell. I acknowledge that like Kevin Keegan he worked hard to compensate for a lack of natural ability, but he has never had pace, can't tackle, can't head, is not especially skillful and for me (like his wife, Robbie Williams and so many more) is extremely fortuitous to have gone so far on so little actual talent. As I stated recently I challenge people to remember a dozen or so of the 115 times he played for England when he made a difference (and yes he was fantastic against Greece).
 
I have often heard it said that he played with passion for his country and is an ambassador. Aside from the fact that everyone should play with passion for their country is that not insulting to the likes of Stuart Pearce and so many others, who were equally proud, but didn't have to trumpet it all over the papers? The opprobrium he received after his sending off against Argentina was disgusting and completely out of proportion, in the same vein as much of the chanting he has had to endure about Victoria (and those who said they hoped his children died of cancer are beyond redemption) but the fact remains that his stupid act of indiscretion almost certainly cost the country he loves so much progress in that tournament.
 
The "ideal family man" is alleged to have had affairs with Rebecca Loos (and he didn't sue when it was revealed), Sarah Marbeck (when his wife was heavily pregnant) and at least two others to boot. He has at least (possibly with a great deal of coaching) progressed interview wise from the monosyllabic mumbler it used to be so painful to watch. So in conclusion, he is no more worthy of a knighthood than Bradley Wiggins is for riding a bike, or indeed any footballer, sportsman, actor or musician, with the possible exception of those such as David Weir who have overcome huge obstacles to reach the pinnacle. Not that I believe in the system anyway.
 
He is no ambassador or role model (except to his family). He is a multi-millionaire whose every nuance, haircut, tattoo serves only to earn him money and keep him on the front pages. I hope the Parisian charity benefits from his "money" and the additional publicity from the inevitable visit where he is seen playing footie with the residents, but I would have some respect for him had he kept this quiet, which would be the sign of true benevolence and to be perfectly honest it is the equivalent of you or I donating a tenner.