Monday 20 November 2017

Beckham called on to rescue England

Henry Winter in Zurich

Even in the twilight of his career, David Beckham still has one great World Cup performance for England left in him. Not with the ball at his feet, but with words, smiles and his sheer charismatic presence. And the crowd called out for more.

Beckham yesterday flew into 'Fifaville', an elegant city teeming with executive committee members and World Cup lobbyists, with gossip, intrigue and mulled wine. In one noisy part of town Ruud Gullit and the Dutch-Belgian 2018 bid team were throwing a lively party. In another, the anxious English were throwing up their hands in frustration over 'Panorama'. Beckham arrived like the cavalry. An old captain was reporting for England duty.

Beckham soothed the concerns about 'Panorama' of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner, whose support England need to have a chance in tomorrow's vote. He also reminded everyone that football is about players and passionate supporters.

"The fact that I was an England player for so many years (14), and have won 115 caps -- I would have loved to have won something," he said. "But to bring the World Cup to England would be up there with one of the best things I have ever done in my career."

Beckham dismissed the suggestion that 'Panorama' could lose England votes. "I do not think it will be negative for us because it is in the past now. Basically me, David Dein, the prime minister and other members of the team sat down with president Blatter this morning and it was one of the topics we spoke about and something that was cleared away.

"He brought it up within the talks and obviously it was not the easiest of things to talk about. He realised a lot of it was old stuff."

Blatter, Warner and other members of the executive committee 'brotherhood' instinctively warmed to such a likeable figure. Beckham felt Fifa were "impressed" with the England bid. "They are impressed with the fact we will match the money they are putting up for young kids, supporting grassroots," he said. "Legacy is a huge thing in football. It is about bringing kids through, about giving them the opportunities and giving them the inspiration. And all those kind of things go down well with the members. Hopefully that will make the votes swing our way."

Having ruled out a move to Everton "because I'm still a Manchester United fan", Beckham envisaged his continuing in some future ambassadorial role in football as Bobby Charlton does with United.

"I love football so I always want to be involved," said Beckham. "I do not want to be a manager but I do always want to be involved in football in some way. If that is in an ambassadorial role then I would enjoy that. I don't enjoy it as much as playing but it is great." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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