Saturday, 13 January 2007

Like An Old Dog

Like an old dog looking for a quiet place to die
By Russell Brand

When I think of Soccerball in connection with the United States, I recall depictions of hooligans in the Simpsons, children and women playing a neutered, "escape to victory" version of the game (not like Arsenal Ladies who seem robust, I'm not being sexist, racist possibly but not sexist) and Alexei Lalas's beard (I think in this image he's leaping to score a header at some point during Italia 90).

And it is to this land of preposterous imagery and inherent indifference to our game that David Beckham will run out his last few seasons of dead ball excellence and razor endorsements. There was talk of him coming to West Ham or possibly Newcastle or Bolton which I suppose would have seemed like a mistake, as if he were returning chastised, sans accomplishments, to be frustrated on some unloved, unlovely wing glancing to the centre of the action where he'd always been culturally and always yearned to be tactically.

I remember the night before our dog died she wouldn't sit with us, preferring instead to linger behind the sofa with the instinctive knowledge of her demise and whilst California is more glamorous then the back of a settee in Essex I think that Beckham is too proud to let us witness his decline. Also I understand he's being quite well paid. Doubtless it appeals that he may be the footballing missionary who finally succeeds where Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and George Best failed and convinces America to enjoy a globally relevant activity other than bombing.

For what it's worth I like him, I like his vanity, his style, class and temperament. I didn't get swept up in the effigy burning (not that it was a national pursuit, my mum didn't either) I liked it that he wore a sarong and clearly tended to his hair at half-time during World Cup matches. As a footballer he's provided us with incredible moments perhaps most notably the free-kick he scored against Greece that granted qualification that would have otherwise been denied, and also awoke me from a heroin-induced stupor and gave me sufficient vim to order a pizza and make it through a difficult weekend.

There must be countless stories of acts of inadvertent kindness enacted by Beckham, culturally only Diana has occupied the position of maligned and worshipped Saint, adored for sartorial elegance, presumed dumb, ubiquitous yet endlessly fascinating. Perhaps because his communication skills aren't as sharp as his football skills he becomes enigmatic and endlessly intriguing. What is he thinking? What's he like in bed? Does he love his missus?

I've just begun working out with a personal trainer, an ex-footballer and communicative only on the subject of fitness this makes him to me a canvass on to which I project all manner of quirky fantasies, not sexual, just idol musings of how he'd be in a fight or a deerstalker. Dear David bares the burden of a nation's reflections.

He's not a tragic character is he? Like Di? I hope not. I imagine all will be well for him in LA. They'll become chums with Snoop Dogg and continue their peculiar friendship with Tom and Katie Cruise. Perhaps they'll become scientologists - that'd be nice (my American pc knows how to spell "scientologist" but not "footballing" - that's worrying).

I hope his ambitions are the achievement of personal happiness as opposed to some doomed crusade to make Americans like football. In my lifetime they've hosted one World Cup and reached the quarter-final of another and seem to delight in ignoring it. Whether they continue to be ignorant to the magic of the game he has so beautifully served is anybody's guess but they'll struggle to ignore Beckham.

Guardian Column

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