David Beckham: What did he do, really, for American soccer? (+video)
David Beckham has announced his retirement. In the US, the David Beckham experiment coincided with a flourishing of soccer, and he was the perfect face for the sport's new swagger.
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In a city where basketball has reigned for decades as the first sports choice for glitterati and gum-chewing public alike – with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA title 16 times – Beckham’s movie-star good looks and wife, Victoria (a model, fashion designer, and Posh Spice of the Spice Girls in her own right), were just what was needed to turn heads toward a sport in need of a big splash.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Dazzle like Beckham
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Yet Beckham's time in Los Angeles also underscored a theme that ran through his entire career: that for all the glitz of the Beckham bandwagon, what really turned heads, in the end, was his play on the field.
As a player for Manchester United, he once scored a goal from midfield. For the English national team, he once almost singlehandedly led his country to the World Cup, scoring a fantastic free-kick goal in injury time against Greece. Beckham was the first English player to score at three consecutive World Cups and has the joint-second most assists in this history of the Euro Championships.
In Los Angeles, too, the Beckham effect was most noticeable when he was at his best. For two of his five years, Beckham spent more time playing on loan for an Italian club (AC Milan) than for the Galaxy, thinking that would give him the best chance of being named to England's 2012 World Cup squad. He wasn't, but Beckham redeemed himself in American eyes by playing with style and skill – and commitment – during his last two years with the Galaxy.
The Galaxy won the MLS title both years, and the impact was felt.
“My son adores David Beckham so much I think it’s the reason he’s playing soccer now,” says Renee Showalter, a mother of three sitting at a Starbucks in Sherman Oaks, Calif. She remembers how Beckham angered her husband and others in L.A. when he played two off-seasons with Milan, but "they all got over it."
There's no question that Beckham is well equipped for life after soccer. He played a significant role in the successful bid to bring the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to London, and this March he became the first sportsman from outside China to be invited to become the ambassador for the sport in the country. His savvy in the branding field, including ad campaigns with the shoe company, Adidas, won him admiration beyond the sporting pitch.
Now that savvy is fueling speculation that Beckham might some day be headed back to America.
"Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love," Beckham said in a statement. "However, I feel like I'm starting a new adventure, and I'm genuinely excited about what lies ahead."