LONDON – Retiring English football icon David Beckham should be celebrated for his on-field achievements and for spearheading a new era of superstar athletes, Britain's press, said today.
Beckham has had a troubled relationship with Britain's press. Fleet Street savaged the midfield playmaker after his red card was blamed for England's 1998 World Cup exit against Argentina.
Today, however, the country's journalists paid tribute to his success in rebuilding his career and reputation. "Cheers David," said the front-page headline of popular tabloid The Sun, formerly Beckham's harshest critic. Above was a picture of the player celebrating the last-minute free kick against Greece that took England to the 2002 World Cup Finals widely regarded as his moment of national redemption.
The top-selling daily carried a special 12-page pullout documenting his career along with an editorial calling him a "True Brit hero." "A lad from an ordinary family who became a superstar," it said. "The embodiment of the ideal that with hard work and integrity, dreams CAN come true.
The Daily Mail, The Times and Guardian all ran with the headline "End it Like Beckham," playing on the title of the film that launched Keira Knightley's career. "From a hate figure. to a star who long ago transcended his sport, David Beckham's globe-trotting odyssey has made him one of the most recognisable, over-analysed and well-paid celebrity figures of the age," said the Guardian's Owen Gibson.
The 38-year-old often faced media accusations that his glamorous lifestyle dictated his professional career, a charge still levelled during retirement. The Times' Matt Hughes said his signing for LA Galaxy in 2007, as he and his pop-singer wife Victoria were trying to break the US commercial market, was premature and hindered his on-field success. "As he comes to terms with his retirement in the next few days Beckham could be forgiven for wondering what might have been?" he added. But he paid tribute to Beckham's off-field service to the country, crediting him with playing a prominent role in bringing the Olympics to London.
"Such service summed up a man who achieved more than he could possibly have dreamt of at the start of an incredible career," he added. The Daily Telegraph highlighted Beckham's influence on the modern game, and predicted that it wouldn't be a quiet retirement. "David Beckham was not just any footballer," said its editorial. "He was the incarnation, for good and ill, of modern football. "With his handsome face still on billboards and his name still on lips, Beckham's retirement was never going to be a pipe and slippers affair. "As he leaves the pitch at Paris St Germain, it is very much a case of au revoir rather than goodbye," it added.--AFP