For all of his fame and celebrity, there are sides to David Beckham that were underrated, until the release of this new sports documentary.
By now, you’ve likely heard about or have already seen the new sports documentary series, Beckham. In its debut week, it scored No. 1 on Netflix, and it’s been all anyone has been able to talk about over the last few days — sports fans and non-sports fans alike. After all, you don’t need to be a football fan to know the gravity that the name ‘David Beckham’ holds.
He is an icon whose influence spans further than the world of football. This documentary puts us in his world, sharing previously unknown stories from his career and giving deeper context into the parts of his life we already know. And all in all, it makes for one of the best sports documentaries, if not the best one, of the year.
Here are three highlights from Beckham that make it a story worth hearing.
Football is not just football
While Beckham is a sports documentary that tells the story of one of the most iconic football players to ever exist, one thing it also does well is show the relationship between fan and sport.
In England’s game versus Argentina in the Round of 16 of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, David Beckham, who had been an instrumental player, received a red card after he flicked his leg out from the ground to knock over Argentina’s Diego Simeone. He left his team with 10 men on the pitch, the score at 2-2, and when the match had to go into penalties, England was knocked out.
The public blamed David Beckham for all of it — and England fans are not to be messed with. Following this, the young player became the villain of the country. One headline from the documentary series that stands out is the one that read, ‘Ten Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy.’
But it didn’t stop at words.
The sports documentary went on to show how seriously fans had taken this loss — someone hung an effigy of Beckham in public, one fan threw his TV out the window after the game, people were sending him death threats, and worse, they started to target his family, sending threats to kidnap his newborn son. And this list does not even begin to scratch the surface of what Beckham had to endure, not just for a few weeks, but for months.
Evidently, a game of football — or even just a single moment in a game — is not over when a fan turns off the TV or leaves the stadium after the final whistle. Any moment that strikes a cord of emotion can take over a fan’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. While actions and expressions like that Beckham had to face that year are totally inexcusable, this sports documentary paints a vivid picture of what football means to a lot of people.
A human Galactico
David Beckham is revered as a legend in the sports world. He was a Galactico, a Spanish word for ‘galactic’ used to refer to Real Madrid’s superstar-studded team in the 2000s. And yet, this series showcased just how human he really is.
Following the brutal backlash from his little foot flick at the 1998 World Cup, Beckham became “clinically depressed,” as his wife Victoria explained in the documentary. He was only 23 years old at the time, but he even admitted that he is still haunted by the red card incident, and it is no doubt amplified by the memories of the abuse.
But it wasn’t only the red card incident that showed proof of his humanness. The struggles Beckham faced in his personal life, from the affair allegations that challenged his marriage, to being separated from his wife and kids for months at a time that affected his ability to play as well as he possibly could — these all showed a side of Beckham that we may not have previously known prior to this sports documentary.
In fact, when he was playing in Real Madrid while simultaneously trying to fix his marriage, he revealed that he found it difficult to come into training every day, let alone play the matches. It showed in his performance. One of the authors interviewed in Beckham described how he played during this time negatively.
Like any sports documentary, Beckham shows the human side of the athlete that often, people don’t see (or choose to ignore) because of how much they earn or how it comes with the territory of being in the public eye. But they are human, and this was a good reminder that even the best players will have their off days or off months in the wake of personal struggles.
Beckham, the athlete
But the main reason why Beckham might be the best sports documentary of the year is because, for all of the fame and celebrity David Beckham has, I still think he is underrated as a football player, and this series reminds us of it.
When Beckham rose in popularity, he was among one of the first athletes to become more than just an athlete, but an entire brand. He was one of the first few footballers to sign brand deals, book modeling gigs, and become as internationally renowned as he was. He became known far outside of football circles. Because of that, his name arguably became even more synonymous with fashion, style, and gossip than it did with football.
Thankfully, this documentary puts Beckham back in the realm of sports. It put the spotlight on his magic right foot that had the ability to make some of the most accurate passes, the most unstoppable free kicks, and the most powerful plays.
We can talk about his suits or haircuts all day, but David Beckham should be remembered for being one of the best midfielders of his generation.
And his passion should have never been questioned. He moved from country to country, often at the expense of his family stability, just to keep playing football. When he played the final game of his career, he was moved to tears. He went on to become one of the co-owners of Inter Miami, unable to let go of the game completely.
So when we think of David Beckham, I hope we think about more than the rumors and controversies.
After all, the man has six Premier League titles with Manchester United, two FA Cups, four Community Shields, a Champions League trophy, two MLS Cups, a Ligue title from France, and a La Liga title from Spain. And even more than this is the immeasurable amounts of pride and happiness he has brought to all the fans of the clubs he’s played for in his career.
Banner image from Manchester United.