When I first started watching football around 1996, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) had the coolest Nike ad about God making him the greatest player in the world, and it came with a snippet of him dribbling past a rugby team before smacking the ball home. This was way back when he still weighed less than half of Emile Heskey.
So, I had quite a few heated arguments with my older brother over what the big deal was with this up-and-coming player at the time called David Beckham. I thought that all good footballers should be like Ronaldo, dribbling and scoring. To me, all Beckham ever did was pass the ball and run around a lot. Not very cool.
Oh, how growing up can bring you around to your senses and put you on the straight and narrow. Come to think of it, watching a team win the Treble does that as well.
Beckham quickly became my favourite player of all time during his peak years with Manchester United, even though I know he barely ranks among the best players of all time.
But he played with such determination and commitment to the cause – be it with United, England, Real Madrid or even the LA Galaxy – that it made me realise football isn’t all about the flash and bang forwards bring to the game.
So, when I heard last week that I had a chance to ask one question to Beckham, I almost flipped. He has been my dream interview ever since I started writing (unless Michael Jackson comes out of witness protection). Barack Obama can wait till after I’ve done Beckham.
Anyway, the LA Galaxy star is the current global sports ambassador for Yahoo!, who – god bless their souls – kindly set up a global interview using TelePresence, a totally sick video conference technology.
With TelePresence, you go into a room where you have half a conference table, and the other half is a wall of large screens. So, you’re basically looking at the other half of the same table halfway around the world, and talking with whoever it is over there as if they were just across the table.
Even though it was just a video conference, I was pretty psyched. I had already used TelePresence recently for an interview with Derek Fisher, the LA Lakers’ five-time championship-winning point guard, and it almost felt like we were talking in the same room. There was a real up close and personal feel to it.
Unfortunately, there would be 19 other countries across five continents involved in the Beckham interview, meaning Malaysia would only get to ask one question. I was the unlucky journalist who received the invitation to submit a question a day after the deadline.
But I was invited to sit in anyway, and I had my fingers crossed that maybe they’d have some extra time and allow a few more additional questions like they did with Derek Fisher, you know, since Beckham is such an easy-going, laid-back guy who’d love nothing more than to have a longer chat with his adoring fans around the world.
Surprise, surprise, there wasn’t any extra time. It felt even worse because the winning question from Malaysia by journalist Kelvin Goh, who asked if Beckham would consider going into management, got a lot of press around the world.
“I love coaching kids, which is why I have my academies,” said Beckham in that signature squeek. “I love seeing children’s faces when they kick a ball around, I love the enthusiasm, the honesty. But coaching a team and being a manager, at this point in my career I don’t want to do that, and I don’t think that will happen in the future either.”
He did however, maintain that he’d continue to make himself available for England as a player, so long as they want him: “If I felt that I couldn’t at least give something to the England team, I wouldn’t be playing. But even if I don’t play for England again, I’ve already played 115 times, and I’m proud of that.”
In terms of a return to the Premiership, he said: “No, unless it’s for United, which I don’t think will happen. I wouldn’t want to play for another English club.”
One of the interviewers from Singapore asked Beckham to describe his perfect final game in professional football, to which he replied, while looking like he was day-dreaming it: “It would be in Brazil, playing for England in 2014, in the World Cup final. I’ll be 39 (pauses to smile ironically as the interviewers around the world laugh). I’ll set up one, then score the winner in the last minute. Doesn’t get any better than that.”
It was also pretty funny how all the other countries were cheering and singing whenever it was their turn to go on screen to ask Beckham their questions.
There were about 10 of us in the TelePresence room at the Cisco office near KL Sentral, so I told everyone: let’s not embarrass ourselves. We should stay cool, and just go: “Hey Dave, how’s it goin’? Wait, which one of you’s David Beckham again?”
Well, we basically agreed not to make ourselves look stupid … until the host announced it was Malaysia on air. Everyone, even the non-Beckham fans, couldn’t help but start cheering like idiots.
He is one of the world’s biggest personalities after all. He’s even BFFs with (alleged) Manchester United fan Snoop Dogg now.
“Since we moved to LA we’ve become friends, funnily enough,” Beckham said. “He’s a big sports fan and a big football fan – he supports United of course. He called me about 10 days before the album came out and said he just finished the album, that very minute, and asked me to drive down to the studio and listen to it. So I listened to each track, he asked my opinion and I was like, I loved every one of them.”
When the host asked if he would’ve said it if he didn’t like it, Beckham replied sheepishly: “Actually, no, because he has these two bodyguards who are huge!”
Overall, it was a fun time. Beckham was at his charming best talking about stuff like his recent trip to Afghanistan, getting Posh Spice drunk on wine to make her fall in love with him, his son Romeo saying he wanted to have “mummy” and “daddy” tattooed on his arm, and his alternative career as a Lego builder if football hadn’t worked out for him.
It wasn’t exactly the dream interview I’d been hoping for, especially since I didn’t actually ask him anything. But I guess if he can dream about scoring a winning goal for England at 39, I can dream about interviewing him in person some day too.
You can read a transcript of the David Beckham global interview here. He talks about that free-kick against Greece in 2001, making out with Posh Spice in a car park when they were still sneaking around, what he thinks about goal-line technology, his efforts in recreating the Taj Mahal… It was a REALLY long interview.