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David Beckham Retires As One Of Soccer's Most Famous Players

May 16, 2013
Originally published on May 16, 2013 7:24 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Say goodbye to David Beckham. Today, the 38-year-old soccer icon announced he will retire at the end of the month. In 1992, Beckham began playing for the powerhouse English team, Manchester United, the club he followed as a boy. After winning championships with ManU, Beckham won championships for teams in three other countries, including the Los Angeles Galaxy.

And Beckham leveraged his fame, building an international brand as lucrative as that of any professional athlete. Joining me to talk about the Beckham phenomenon is Grant Wahl. He's senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of the book "The Beckham Experiment." Grant, welcome to the program.

GRANT WAHL: Thanks for having me, Melissa.

BLOCK: And let's talk first about David Beckham's style of play that has made him so valuable in the world of soccer.

WAHL: Well, more than anything, David Beckham is one of the best free kick takers of all time. He found a way to master this ability to take a dead ball and bend it like Beckham, as he became known for, around a wall of players and past the goalkeeper into the goal. And that's what I think most people will know him for and remember him for from an image perspective, also a very hard worker who captained the English national team and one of the best passers we've ever seen.

BLOCK: Well, let's listen to a moment, a huge moment for David Beckham and for England that came in 2001. This was a free kick he was taking against Greece that qualified England for the World Cup.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTSCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Beckham could raise the roof here with a goal. I don't believe it. David Beckham scores the goal to take England all the way to the World Cup Finals.

BLOCK: And he goes on to say, give that man a knighthood, which is probably how every English soccer fan felt at that moment.

WAHL: Yeah, just a great moment in Beckham's career. And there were several moments like this where Beckham would come back from something that put him down. He got a red card in the 1998 World Cup and was really a villain character in England for a while. But then, that free kick against Greece really cemented him with the England fans.

He had a few moments like that over his career where he seemed down and out and would only come back to greater heights.

BLOCK: We mentioned David Beckham is retiring at age 38. Have you noticed, in the last few years of play, that he's been seeming his age, that his retirement seemed like it was a sure thing, coming up pretty soon?

WAHL: I think it's not a total surprise because he still did retain some of his skills, his free kick ability, his passing vision, but he didn't run as much as he used to and didn't maybe have the capabilities of playing at the highest levels of the game for a full game. So I think it's a smart move on his part to go out with a championship in the French League as he got last weekend and not have us witness too much diminishing of his skills so publicly.

BLOCK: He's also just a huge corporation unto himself, right, with endorsements right and left. How was the David Beckham brand built?

WAHL: Well, it's something that he was very smart about which companies he was going to associate himself with. That included Pepsi and Adidas. And he's a guy that if you walk down the street in New York City, you still see Beckham billboards, whether he's advertising underwear or watches or any number of things. So I don't expect that will change.

BLOCK: Well, we heard the manager of England's National team, Roy Hodgson, say we, meaning the sport of football, we can really benefit from his charisma. What do you see the future of David Beckham being after he retires?

WAHL: I still think David Beckham will be very much in the public eye in a lot of ambassador roles. He's already done a deal with China in the soccer there to be an ambassador for them. And we'll see him in the United States as well because Beckham has said many times that he plans to exercise the options he has to become an owner in the domestic soccer league, MLS.

I've also talked to Hollywood producers who say that they think Beckham would be a good action movie hero. So, you know, he has a lot of possibilities out there. It just depends on what he wants to do.

BLOCK: Grant Wahl, thanks for talking to us.

WAHL: Okay. Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's Grant Wahl, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of the book "The Beckham Experiment." We were talking about the retirement of David Beckham. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.