In the wake of England crashing out at the quarterfinal stage at Euro 2004, the limelight is back on England captain David Beckham. Beckham missed a penalty in the earlier group stages against France; if he had scored, England would have stood a chance for a supposedly easier quarterfinal test against Greece. Later, he put a penalty horribly wide, in the the penalty shootout against Portugal (England lost 6-5).
There are those who still make Beckham their scapegoat for Englands exit in the 1998 World Cup in France. For him parading style versus substance and now for missing the penalty horrendously against Ricardo in the Portugal goal.
But, lets forget all the negatives, and let's count what David has done for his nation. Forget the penalty miss against France; what about the penalty kick against Argentina, in 02, that sent England on the way to a victory against their serial arch-rival?
What about the free kick against Greece that got England to the 2002 World Cup in the first place? Then, what about the Argentine red card, that supposedly cost England its place in the quarters of the 98 World Cup? What about the corner kick that he took that led Frank Lampard to equalize for England in extra time against Portugal, to let them have the chance of penalty kicks instead of just crashing out, 2-1?
What about the way that he ran his heart out against Greece, to ensure the English team a trip to Japan? What about the free kick against Columbia, in World Cup 98 that led England to have the chance to play Argentina in the first place? Who was the man, who in second-half extra time, ran down the right wing to challenge every ball that came his way against Portugal? David Beckham.
For the United fans, have you forgotten? Have you forgotten the young man who scored from the halfway line almost a decade ago? Have you forgotten whose corner-kicks led to Teddy Sheringham and Ole Solskjaer scoring in injury time against Bayern Munich? What about the player that scored more than 10 goals in the 2001/02 season, when the team flopped so badly?
And for the Madrid fans, possibly the most demanding fans on Earth. You criticize Beckham and insist that the 25 million pound bid for him was wasted. Well, who scored your 600th league goal? To refresh your memories, it was none other than David Beckham. Who was the man, whose work rate pulled Madrid up to a Champions League qualifier spot, when the Galacticos, Raul Gonzalez, Luis Figo, etc were having their off seasons? When they failed to deliver. You made him your midfield work horse, after losing Claude Makelele, and Beckham delivered, as usual, uncomplainingly.
Ill make it no secret, that I adore David Beckham. He was my favorite player at Manchester United, and he will continue to be among my favorites, even if he never returns to that sacred red jersey.
Look! Look beyond the diamond rings, the Aston Martins, the marriage with Victoria Adams, the ever-changing hairstyles, the tattoos. What do you see? You see a lad with the finest crossing ability in the world since god-knows-who, with the best eye for a dead ball since Uthe beginning of time possibly. You see a player, who works his heart out every day, every match, a player with an exceptional ability and a player named David Beckham. Why criticize him?
Tell me, what do you think about a player that has shed blood for the cross of St. George. Does he deserve the stick that the trash tabloids in the United Kingdom give him? Or the tabloid intrusions into his daily life. Or a burning effigy of him hung over a pub? Or the abuse that the lovely West Ham United fans gave him after his 98 dismissal. Football, is a fickle game; you forget the good too easily.
Let us remember the lad, who single-handedly drove England to the World Cup, and the lad who gave England a chance in last nights quarterfinal, as to the "stupid boy" who caused Englands knockout in 98, or the man that accidentally skied the penalty.
Why blame him, on missing the penalty? When there were so many others at fault. What if Wayne Rooney werent injured. What if Michael Owen had scored after Beckhams chip? What if Urz Meier had allowed Sol Campbells goal? What if Sven Goran Eriksson had left Scholes and Gerrard on the pitch. What if Owen Hargreaves, had not slipped and fell on a clear route to goal? What if Darius Vassell had scored? What if Wayne Rooney had taken the penalty instead of Vassell? What if David James had saved a penalty? What if Helder Postigas cheekily-taken penalty was disallowed?
Any football fan will know, that when a match goes to penalties, the outcome, is left in the hands of god. You can't blame the player, you can only lament with him on his misfortune.
The pitch was uneven anyway. While this does not spare Becks any responsibility, we must refrain from blasting him, for this is a special player, with god given ability. Mark my words. Watch Beckham in the 2006 World Cup, in the swan song of his illustrious and sometimes turbulent international career.
Watch him lift the trophy in the final at the Olympic Stadium. Watch him run his heart out, against any opposition, be it a Zinedine Zidane-less France, or a Christiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal. Watch that dead ball, watch the cross that scares the most established defenders in Europe to death. I dont believe, that there is any captain in international football today (bar Ryan Giggs perhaps) who deserves a trophy more. Beckham last lifted his trophy as a captain, more than a decade ago, in the Milk Cup, as a youth captain.
Watch him bounce back, and watch the nation acclaim him once more. Special players always come back against the seemingly impossible obstacles, and David is one of these players. He came back against Argentina, and my bet is that hell do it again.
However, this time, it might be a little harder for Beckham. After the 98 World Cup, he could still count on the support of the fans at the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, his spiritual home to back him. This time, the stoic Madridstas at the Santiago Bernabeau, will not be so kind.
But the English captain should also know, that there will always be a select few English, Madrid and Manchester United fans that will forever remain loyal to him. He will forever, be a hero to them as he is to me.
All he needs is a heroic performance. And where better to do so, then in the grandest stage in the World. The 2006 Germany World Cup.
Kristiano Ang's previous articles include Avril Strikes Back, The Richest, Hottest U-30s in the World, and Has Money Truly Made The World A Better Place? Ang is the executive editor of the youth support magazine, Vainquer Teens, which is launching soon. He writes on positive thinking, popular culture, and world affairs. He can be contacted via this website.