David Robert Joseph Beckham, nicknamed Becks, is an accomplished soccer (football) player from England. His playing prowess is renowned; he has been a member of the English national team since 1996, and team captain since 2000. It is expected that he will retain the captaincy of the English squad in the 2006 edition of the World Cup of soccer. Aside from his soccer abilities, Beckham's charisma has made him a sought-after marketing draw for a variety of companies. He has become a prime example of the fusion between sports, entertainment, and business.
David Beckham was born May 2, 1975, in Leyton-stone, in the east of London. His upbringing was not one of privilege; his father was a construction worker and his mother was a hairdresser. Soccer was uppermost in the household, particularly the allegiance to Manchester United. A skilled cross-country runner, Beckman inherited his parent's passion for soccer. In his 2003 autobiography entitled Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, he recounts spending endless boyhood hours at a local park with his father, honing the skills that would later bring him prominence, fame, and fortune.
His soccer skills were evident early. By the age of 11, Beckham had already been identified as a player of potential. Just three years later, he was offered contracts to join both the Tottenham Hotspurs and the Manchester United football clubs. On his 14th birthday in 1989, he fulfilled a childhood dream by joining the "Man U" organization.
Playing first with the club's youth team, he was part of the victorious Football Association (FA) Youth Cup team of 1992. That same year, he appeared as a first team player in a Premier League game, and soon thereafter signed a professional contract with the team. After a season on loan to Preston North End in the 1994–1995 season to gain playing experience, Beckham rejoined the Manchester United first team in April 1995.
Over the next several seasons, he established himself as a starting player and a midfielder of great talent and influence on the outcome of a game. His ability to score from a corner kick—a feat that requires the ball to bend as it moves through the air to enter the net—made Beckham famous.
His celebrity off the pitch began in 1998 when he began dating Victoria Adams, then a member of the popular singing group, The Spice Girls. They married in July 1999, and now have three sons: Brooklyn (born March 4, 1999), Romeo (September 1, 2002), and Cruz (February 20, 2005).
In the 1998–1999 season, Beckham was part of a remarkable Manchester United team, which captured the championship of the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champions League (which consists of teams from the United Kingdom, Europe, and Russia).
Despite these heroics, his ejection from a crucial game in the 1998 World Cup, which ultimately eliminated England from further competition, made Beckham the object of derision in his country.
Over the next two seasons, the relationship between Beckham and Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson began to deteriorate, with Ferguson publicly questioning Beckham's commitment to the game and his teammates. Despite the controversy, his play for the club continued to be stellar and endorsement contracts multiplied. By 2002, a renegotiated soccer contract (which included extra payments for the club's use of his image) and endorsement income had made him the highest-paid soccer player in the world.
Nonetheless, his career at Manchester United ended in July 2003, when Beckham signed a four-year contract to play with Spain's Real Madrid.
As of 2006, Beckham remains with Real Madrid. His play has been alternately exhilarating and disappointing, and the club's record has not met expectations. As he enters the final year of his contract, it is not known whether he will seek to remain with Real Madrid or join another club.
David Beckham's career has been remarkable. If, as expected, he captains the English team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he would be just the sixth player from England to represent his country at three of the competitions, and only the third player to captain a team at more than one World Cup. His accomplishments were recognized by being awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in June 2003.
Despite the disappointment of his years at Real Madrid, his performance at the Euro 2004 tournament (in which England was eliminated after he missed a crucial penalty kick) and his alleged and unsubstantiated personal improprieties, David Beckham remains a formidable marketing tool, as his contracts with sporting goods giant Adidas and razor maker Gillette attest. He is globally popular as a soccer player and celebrity.