Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kicking It Up a Notch

HeadderDavid Beckham has star power to burn. Lucky for Miamians, he’s using some of it to put together a Major League Soccer team right here in our city.

You don’t have to follow soccer to know who David Beckham is. On the contrary—you may recognize his finely etched, expressive, handsome face from any number of places other than an English football field: magazine covers, underwear ads, his fragrance campaign, seductively styled portraits of him with his equally sexy wife, Victoria, the über-successful fashion designer formerly known as Posh, of the über-successful girl band the Spice Girls. Or, lately, you may have seen him in the local news, because the former superstar footballer has chosen Miami for a new U.S. Major League Soccer expansion team.

After retiring last year from the sport following a period playing for the L.A. Galaxy, Beckham—whose MLS soccer player contract included an option to create a new team for $25 million—chose the Magic City and has been assembling a team of investors and according to various news reports, his representatives are checking out sites for a purpose-built soccer-only stadium.

Beckham4 copyIt wasn’t made public when Beckham came to the U.S. from Britain to play Major League Soccer seven years ago that the provision to buy a MLS franchise for $25 million was part of his deal, but there are plenty of Miamians who were excited to hear it. His marquee name and celebrity status could mean great things for fans of the sport who have not only high hopes a team will actually materialize, but that it will be a high-profile one with star power and lots of flash (unlike the only professional soccer team currently in South Florida, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, which is a tier-2 team; the future of the Orlando franchise, which will begin playing in 2015, is yet to be seen). After all, Beckham hangs with the likes of Tom Cruise, fellow Brit Chef Gordon Ramsay, whom he told Esquire magazine, “There is a good chance of Gordon being around cooking a beef Wellington,” at his and Victoria’s home. He recently commissioned a painting as a gift for his daughter, Harper, by “a friend,” who turned out to be the artist Damien Hirst. Then there is his association with current sports royalty, LeBron James, who in November admitted to the press that he is helping Beckham find a home in Miami for the future MLS franchise.  He says he’s attracted to the passion the sport’s fans have for soccer. “I think the passion is the number-one thing,” James, who three years ago also invested in the Liverpool soccer team (which was valued last April at $651 million), told the independent.co.uk. “The passion that the fans have about the game of soccer; it’s pretty intense. It’s pretty awesome. I had an opportunity to go to a game in England and it was an unbelievable experience. It’s a world-renowned sport.”

And one at which Beckham is firmly at the center of, having enjoyed a stellar career. From his beginnings at Manchester United to his years with the LA Galaxy through his final year on the turf with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, he has been a star attraction. While he has admitted in interviews that he misses “the buzz” since retiring last year, he doesn’t regret the choice because it allows him to spend time with his family. “I feel this pang of regret whenever I watch the sport; this sense that I will never play a big match again,” he told The Times. “I guess those feelings are inevitable when you have just retired from sports. You miss the buzz. Nothing will replace it. But I don’t regret the decision to retire. My body was losing its edge. I was taking longer to recover from injuries. You have to get out at some point.”

Beckham3 copyBut before he did, Beckham enjoyed a storied career. With United, Beckham won six Premier League titles and two FA Cups. He played 115 times for England—more than any other outfield player—and captained his country 59 times, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Then in 2007, Beckham signed a five-year deal worth $32.5 million to join the LA Galaxy. He and Victoria and their three children landed on U.S. soil to much fanfare. Instantly, they melded into the fabric of celebrity society and became fodder for the tabloids and the paparazzi. In the meantime, Beckham not only continued on as a soccer star; Forbes reports that last year he earned $42 million in commercial endorsements alone from brands like Adidas, H&M, Samsung, Breitling and Coty, even launching his own fragrances. He also became the first male ever to be featured on the cover of Elle with nary an objection from its female readership. And he’s represented by the same publicist as Bruce Willis, John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone.

But by all accounts, Beckham is at heart just a 38-year-old English gentleman who embodies the concept of “what you see is what you get.” When asked by a reporter for Esquire if there’s any disconnect between his image and who he really is, Beckham said no. “What you see,” he said, “that’s me. And that won’t change. I don’t try and hide anything. There’s nothing to hide.”

He is also a devoted husband and father and is often photographed out with his and Victoria’s three sons, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, along with their 2-year-old daughter, Harper Seven, with whom he is completely smitten. As for Victoria, whom he’s been with for 17 years and married to for nearly 15, he’s described her in an interview as “charming,” “funny,” “immensely talented” and “very committed”—the admiration comes through loud and clear—and, most impressively to Beckham, “an amazing mum. That’s her strongest quality for me. Being her husband and the father of her children, there’s nothing better than seeing a woman who is amazing with her children.” He added, “At the end of the day, I’m very lucky to have what I have and do what I do, but I don’t see myself as any different from anyone else who works hard and is a dad and a husband.”

And arguably the best soccer player of the past decade. So it’s only fitting—and extremely exciting for Miamians, particularly with the buzz taking place leading up to the World Cup in June 2014—that he is collaborating with the best player in the NBA to bring his sport to our city. But no matter how famous he is, or how much he accomplishes, Beckham’s priorities have nothing to do with fame and fortune. When asked how he would like to be remembered last year, he replied, “Just as a hard-working footballer. I want to be remembered firstly as a good and successful footballer because that’s what I’ve done for many years. And then who knows after that?”