LONDON: How long before he becomes Sir David?
David Beckham – football star, fashion icon, hairstyle trendsetter and all-around mega celebrity – received a prestigious award on Friday in Queen Elizabeth II’s honours list.
The England captain, on the verge of being sold by Manchester United, will receive the OBE – Officer of the Order of the British Empire – for services to English football.
Not everyone approved. Some lawmakers and media commentators complained the recognition only rewards Beckham for his knack of hogging the headlines.
The announcement came as the 28-year-old midfielder and his pop star wife, “Posh Spice” Victoria, were preparing to fly home from Los Angeles after a promotional tour of the United States.
Beckham is due to leave next week on a visit to Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.
The royal honour comes amid a national media frenzy over Beckham’s likely departure from Manchester United after 13 years with the club.
Manchester United announced on Tuesday they had accepted a bid – reported at up to £30 million (US$48 million) – to send Beckham to Spanish football giants Barcelona.
The deal was contingent on Joan Laporta winning Barcelona’s presidential election today and Beckham agreeing to the transfer.
Beckham’s management company immediately shot down the Barcelona move, saying the player was being used as a “political pawn” and had no intention of meeting Laporta.
Barcelona’s archrivals, Real Madrid, are now the favourites to sign Beckham. European Champions Cup winner AC Milan and Inter Milan are other contenders.
Beckham’s OBE came as no surprise – word had been leaked to British newspapers last weekend.
“It’s superb news,” his father, Ted Beckham, said at the time. “You don’t think of these things when you’re younger and when you are first starting out in football, all you want to do is concentrate on the game.
“I imagine he’ll think, ’Blimey, I’m only 28 and I’ve got an OBE.’ It’s superb.”
The honours are officially bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II but are largely selected by the government.
In descending order, the honours are knighthoods, CBE, MBE and OBE. Those who are awarded CBEs, OBEs and MBEs have no title but can put the letters after their names.
Beckham, who has helped United win six of eight Premier League titles in 11 years, is Britain’s most famous sportsman and its most photographed and written about personality.
His iconic status cut across all lines – he is popular with football fans and non-fans alike, men, women, children and different ethnic groups.
But not everyone thinks he deserves a royal honour.
A dozen Labour Party legislators, including former Sports Minister Tony Banks, signed a motion on Friday objecting to Beckham’s OBE on grounds that it cheapens the honour.
“Is he being rewarded for his footballing skills or for his clowning around in front of the cameras, which I think makes a contribution to the dumbing down of our society?” asked Paul Farrelly, who sponsored the motion.
“I think there are a lot of voluntary workers doing valuable work in the community who have an equally rightful claim to an honour,” he said.
Several commentators questioned why Beckham should get the recognition now. They noted that Bobby Moore, the late England captain, only received the OBE after guiding the national team to their only World Cup title in 1966.
“Not only was (Bobby Moore) captain of the one England team to win the World Cup but he was also voted the outstanding player of a tournament which included Pele, Eusebio and Beckenbauer,” columnist Jeff Powell wrote in the Daily Mail earlier this week.
“And what, pray, is Master Beckham’s contribution to the ultimate football festival? To put it harshly, two World Cups lost.” – AP