Sandra Beckham looked at the television camera and began to tell the story of how her son got a chance to meet his favorite soccer player when he was young. And, in short, we’re back to David Beckham’s childhood.
“I remember Glen Hoddle opening a store,” Sandra recalls. “We stopped for two or three hours. David was wearing the little English shirt with ‘Hoddle’ on the back. And he (Hoddle) never came out. David was very sad.”
With Netflix’s new four-part documentary (because why would Beckham stick around for a while?), it’s an early indication that it’s not just one long fest of happy-go-lucky stories. Not always, anyway.
Hoddle would later become England manager at the 1998 World Cup, handing Beckham his first team title to dry up all sorts of public criticism.
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As such, Hoddle did not come out of this project well. David’s wife, Victoria Beckham, expressed that she could not deal with this problem. Her father-in-law, Ted, also has to go. Then we return to the retired hairdresser, whose son is the most famous football player on the planet. “Glenn Hoddle said my son’s head wasn’t in the right place, was he?” Sandra says. “I put it on my favorites list – people who pissed me off.
That hit list could be much longer than just the Golden Balls, but the history of the Beckhams. A tale of exhilarating highs and devastating lows.
What you won’t find in the non-fictional “Beckham” is anything too new or revealing, but then again, it’s surprising that the man in question actually spent 30 years with the paparazzi outside his front door. ?
Full marks to the editors though for making the most of Beckham’s contact book and assembling an impressive list of talking heads from Manchester United, Real Madrid and his other clubs.
Sir Alex Ferguson may not have had any involvement in the 2019 biography of Sir Matt Busby – which may or may not have had to do with the fact that he was planning his own film at the time – but he appears here to wander through nostalgia, for example, how much he disliked Victoria’s presence and his almighty anger, directly at his rival. After the Arsenal game was lost, United’s sometimes intimidating manager was seen stepping on a missing football boot and it came off Beckham’s head.
(An interesting side note: then-United’s Albert Morgan suspected that photos of Beckham with his hair up and surgically arranged above his eyes were stage-managed by the media. Ferguson suspected that Beckham had deliberately made the “graze” look worse for the cameras, so they didn’t need stitches.
Roberto Carlos remembers Beckham’s first summer with Real Madrid and the pre-season trip to Japan that became Beatlemania. “There were 40 Beckhams on the billboards and only one of me,” said the Brazilian, one of the Galacticos.
There is a famous Roy Keane piece of comedy that recalls the scene when Beckham starts showing off his latest purchase with his Gucci leathers, Rolex watch and customized sports car. “He came in and said, ‘I bought a beautiful pen.’ Even Kin is laughing. “Who buys a f***ing pen? Clothes and cars, I get all that. A pen?!”
Diego Simeone appeared to give his version of events about that red card against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup and, sure enough, there was a glint in his eye to make it perfectly clear that he wouldn’t regret it for a second. “Football is about deception,” he said, admitting that he was comfortable in his skin and fully prepared to get his opponent in trouble. This guy is totally on Sandra’s favorite list.
Nowhere is his quota more evident than in the early stages of his relationship with Gary Neville, his teammate Victoria, aka Posh from the Spice Girls. “He kept the light on in the bathroom, talking to her all night. I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Come on, mate, seriously. We play against Liverpool on Sunday.”
Overall, while it runs long in places and has a few moments, it makes for an entertaining watch, even if there are moments when it strays dangerously far from its TV counterpart, Interview with Hello. Magazine.
In the process we see a soft-focus Beckham, a restless Beckham, a whiny Beckham (often), an OCD Beckham, a hyper-ambitious Beckham and, by his own admission, an occasionally selfish Beckham.
As clearly devoted to his four children, who knew he missed the birth of his third child, Cruz, who was photographed with Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé that day? Well, Victoria certainly did. “What does Posh say?” A newspaper carrying a picture of her husband between two of the world’s most beautiful women with a picture of her husband was circulated from the caesarean section.
“Let me tell you what Posh says. ‘Posh is gone,'” Victoria told the documentary.
What hasn’t always been clear is whether Beckham understands the irony of some of his most difficult times in his insistence on being in the public eye. He chased that fame from a young age and, boy, did he get it when he met a Hollywood-chic A-lister, an international pop star.
But that fame had its downside, and those moments are the moments that stand out from Beckham’s usual portfolio: that goal from the halfway line, the crucial penalty equalizer against Greece, the outbursts from Ferguson and so on.
In one scene, he and Victoria recall the kidnapping and death threats they received when their first child, Brooklyn, was born. Beckham was a hated figure at the time for a quarter of a century for reasons that were completely out of proportion.
He was booed during the game against Argentina and if you want to know how crazy it was for him, he remembers his mother inviting a West Ham fan to come out and have a fist-fight, the old-fashioned way, if she didn’t like the abuse he was getting in his first game back from the World Cup.
“The moment he[Brooklyn]came out, I was like, ‘How am I going to protect him?'” Beckham said. I thought. “That night, I slept with my head against the door. I think someone is going to steal it. It was supposed to be a fun time – and it really was – but I was worried.
It is sometimes uncomfortable to remember how toxic the British media can be.
Beckham’s reputation flourished in an age when there was no such thing as “be kind,” very few newspaper reporters or editors seemed concerned about mental health, and even fewer noticed Beckham’s descent into depression. Ted once said that he was harassing the phone calls from the tabloid press.
The Spanish media can also be brutal. Fast forward a few years to Madrid and the paparazzi can see Beckham on the school run, driving like crazy to keep up. Leaving the Bernabeu stadium one night, Brooklyn took a backseat to the crowd of fans knocking on the window.
His journey to the Los Angeles Galaxy follows and it’s important to look back and see how underdeveloped MLS was in those days. Beckham left Real Madrid to play for a team consisting of a pool cleaner and a gardener.
The then Madrid manager, Fabio Capello, told him he was joining a league worthless. “I can’t agree with it (the move),” Ferguson said, seemingly forgetting that he and Beckham are not on terms at the moment. “If he asked me for my advice, I’d say, ‘It’s not about your life.'”
Gary Neville, who was best man at Beckham’s wedding, doesn’t seem to be waving the Stars and Stripes. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that in American restaurants they expect you to give them 25 percent of the bill (as a tip). So I couldn’t get my head around Americans, let alone play American football.
What the series doesn’t capture is why Beckham took Qatari money – an outrageous amount, inevitably – to become an ambassador for last year’s World Cup in a country once friendly to the LGBTQI+ community that will draw intense scrutiny and criticism.
That omission shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the intent of this Netflix series is to make everything bearing Beckham’s fingerprints look good. But it’s not whitewashing – for example, they bring up an extramarital affair a few years ago.
It would have been amazing television if they had invited Joe Lissett, the pansexual British comedian who publicly challenged Qatar and went out of his way to highlight what it looks like to many.
David Beckham, The Interview: Miami, Messi, Manchester United – and more.
Instead, the filmmakers stick to a more positive script and invite Landon Donovan, the most controversial after United, to explain what is sometimes a bitter fallout between the two in Los Angeles. Donovan Beckham had a distinct feeling he didn’t want to be there, and to begin with, he was probably right.
But eventually they made friends. Beckham being Beckham, there is usually a happy ending.
And so, the nearly five-hour telecast culminated with Beckham explaining the creation of Inter Miami, Lionel Messi joining him in his brave new world and some truly sweet moments with his kids back in England.
He and Ferguson seem fine too, or the former United manager would never have agreed to take part in a documentary about Beckham’s beekeeping.
It has the name “Goldenbees” for the honey it produces.
(Top photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)