interview by Sari Anne Tuschman
photographs by Anthony Mandler | May 24, 2011 | People
Trench coat, Burberry ($1,595). 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; burberry.com. Dress shirt, Ralph Lauren Black Label ($275). 444 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; ralphlauren.com. Tie, Dolce & Gabbana ($150). 312 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; dolcegabbana.com. Pants, Beckham’s own
What if you so excelled at a sport, your name became synonymous with the game, your skills the stuff of legend? What if you were so talented, so charismatic that the unenviable task of growing your sport’s popularity in the world’s third-largest country fell to you? What if?
For David Beckham, it's neither a question nor an unimaginable scenario. It's his reality.
The London-born footballer, who made his career playing for some of Europe’s top teams, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, became arguably the world’s most famous soccer player with an incomparable free kick and a slew of eccentric hairstyles.
But in 2007 Beckham made the life-changing decision to leave the prestige of European football for America to join fledgling Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the LA Galaxy. The goal was not only to win more championships—it was to win the country’s attention and generate a lasting interest in soccer that had previously proved elusive.
Four years later, Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria “Posh” Beckham, have certainly acclimated to the City of Angels, their new home, and are expecting their first girl to add to their brood of three boys: Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz. And coming off a devastating tear of his Achilles that rendered him unable to play in last year’s FIFA World Cup, Beckham—the one-time Emporio Armani underwear poster boy—swears he’s in better shape than ever after spending nearly two months in England training with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. He’s feeling good about the new Galaxy season. But has Becks helped tip a nation seemingly indifferent to his sport toward a soccer-centric future? We caught up with the world-famous athlete to ask him about that, as well as having another baby, how he balances his evergrowing celebrity with his love for the game and if coaching is in his future.
Firstly, how are you feeling? How’s the Achilles?
DAVID BECKHAM: It’s feeling good. I’ve just come back from Europe, which I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to go on loan; I wasn’t going to go train with another club, because at the end of last season I felt I needed to rest. But then after being off a month, I kind of thought I needed to do something. I spoke to the Galaxy and said, “You know, I think at my age and at this time in my career, I really need to think about looking after myself and working through this.” They agreed with me, and they allowed me to join Tottenham [Hotspur]. And I did a little less than two months of good training there. So I feel good. I’ve only missed about three weeks of training with the Galaxy, and I’m ready for the season.
How was training with Tottenham?
DB: It was really good because—obviously—the Premiership is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. I got the sharpness back into my game. I’ve come back physically stronger and better than I have been for a few years.
LEFT: Trench coat, Burberry London ($1,595). burberry.com. Shirt, Ralph Lauren Black Label ($275). 444 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; ralphlauren.com. Silk tie, Dolce & Gabbana ($150). 312 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; dolcegabbana.com. RIGHT: see above.
What are you looking forward to this season with the Galaxy?
DB: I always get excited before the season starts because you go all the way through pre-season and don’t have too many games, so when the competitive games start, it’s great. I think it’s been frustrating the past few years because we’ve come so close and not won anything. This year we’ve brought in a couple of experienced players and a couple of young players that look exciting. Hopefully, it’s going to be our year. We need to work hard, and if we work hard, then we’ve got a chance.
Of the new Galaxy players, who are you most psyched to be playing with?
DB: Juan Pablo Angel. He has experience playing in Europe, and he’s played in the MLS for quite a few years with New York. He’s great for my game, because, obviously, my game is assists. I’ve already put so many balls onto his head in training, and he’s scoring, so if we can [bring] that into games, it’ll be great for us.
With the Galaxy’s new season and a little girl on the way, there’s a lot going on in your life right now. How are you processing it all?
DB: I love my career, but my family will always come first. We’re happy to be having another baby. Our three boys are so excited; they’ve been asking for a baby for a while now, so they were happy when we brought the news to them. We’re lucky enough to have three beautiful boys, three healthy boys. To have another one on the way, we feel very privileged. It’s going to be a big year.
Obviously, it was a disappointment you weren’t able to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup due to your injury. How hard was that on you?
DB: It was disappointing because I’d spent almost two years away from my family when I went on loan to A.C. Milan to try and keep myself involved in playing in the World Cup. To get the injury like I did after being away from my family for so many months, it was difficult. I’m so passionate and patriotic about playing for my country, and that’s one of the things I’ve always tried to get across, because there are certain people, certain fans of the Galaxy who have criticized me for going on loan, going away from the Galaxy, missing certain games in certain parts of the season. The reason I do that is because I’m passionate about playing for my country. But I’ve always looked at things like that—things that happen in my career and in my life—[with the view that] everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason I didn’t go to that World Cup; there’s a reason I got that injury. You don’t always see it straight away, but I think after a couple of years it kind of stands out that there were reasons.
Do you have another World Cup in you?
DB: It would be nice. You know, it’s in 2014; I’ll be 39 by then. I’m getting on. I would love to play another World Cup—it’d be amazing—but that’s not my goal at the moment. My goal is to stay as healthy as I can, to stay as fit as I can, to win things, to be successful—and then, who knows? Over the years, I’ve taken each game as it comes; it’s important for me to do that.
You moved to LA five years ago and were charged with making soccer big in the US. Did that feel like a huge responsibility?
DB: It did. There was a certain responsibility with me moving to MLS and moving to America and having the weight of soccer in this country on my shoulders. But it didn’t feel like it was a pressure situation. It felt like a challenge more than anything, and I think we’ve been very successful in many ways. As a team we’ve not, because we’ve not won a championship for a few years, but I think the game as a whole has definitely grown [in terms of] the franchises that are coming into the league and the [size] of the crowds that come to watch the games. I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent here. It’s been frustrating at times because I love to be successful and I love to win. But I came here with a positive attitude, and I think I’ve enjoyed that and kept that attitude all the way through. I’m determined to make it happen. But I always said from day one it wasn’t going to happen over one, two, three or four years, because the soccer leagues in Europe have been around for a hundred years. For this league—which has existed for  years now—there’s still time for it to grow.
|Anthony six-button double-breasted peak-lapel wool suit ($1,595), dress shirt ($275) and silk tie ($135), Ralph Lauren Black Label. 444 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; ralphlauren.com. Pocket square, Giorgio Armani ($80). 436 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; armani.com|
In addition to playing soccer, you’ve done advertising campaigns for Emporio Armani, you’re launching an underwear line soon, and you’ve done plenty of photo shoots. How do you manage to do all that and still maintain credibility in the locker room?
DB: It becomes a joke. The Armani ads always get a laugh around the locker room. Soccer is the reason why I’m doing these other things outside the game. Without that, I wouldn’t have these things. But it’s not to say I don’t enjoy them; I enjoy doing certain shoots, but my number-one love is soccer, and when I’m playing that everyone knows that’s when I’m at my most comfortable. I’m confident playing the game, and that’s never going to change. Everything I do outside of the game will never affect what I do on the field.
There are rumors about you coaching Britain’s Olympic soccer team. Would that be something you would be interested in?
DB: Not really. I love soccer—it’s something I’ve done for many years, and hopefully, I will continue to do it for a few more years. But coaching—I love working with kids, I love coaching kids—but coaching a professional team is not really a passion of mine. It would be nice to be involved in the Olympics in some way because it’s in the East End of London, where I’m from; I was part of bringing it to our country, to London. So I would love some involvement, but I don’t think I’ll be coaching a team because it’s something that I’m not really passionate about.
Do you have any places in LA you particularly love to go? Any LA family traditions?
DB: There are so many things. That’s one thing we love about America, about living in LA: There are so many different things you can do. Before we came here, the boys loved playing soccer, and that was kind of it. But now they’re into baseball, basketball, skateboarding and American football.
Is that OK with you?
DB: I’m fine about that! I’m not worried. If they want to go into soccer, then great. If they don’t, if they want to be skateboarders, if they want to be American footballers, they can do what they want as long as they’ve got a passion. As long as they’ve got the drive in them that makes them want to do something like that, then I don’t care. But that’s what LA has given us as a family—the experience of so many different things.
Styling by Jeanne Yang for The Wall Group
Makeup by Sarah Lucero
Hair by Ken Paves of Ken Paves Salon