Raging controversy over prospect of Sir David Beckham

LONDON: Ex-footballers and newspapers thrashed out yesterday whether former England captain David Beckham should be knighted, mirroring a reported row among British officials. 

Rumours swirled on Thursday that global sporting icon Beckham was being considered for a knighthood, and the sir title that comes with it, following a report in London’s Evening Standard newspaper, citing a source. 

It re-ignited a row about celebrities receiving honours that has been rumbling since the 1965 outcry when The Beatles were made members of the Order of the British Empire – an honour Beckham has already topped, being made an officer of the order in 2003. 

“I’d have no objection to him being knighted because it’s what he deserves,” England’s 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton, 72, told The Sun newspaper. 

“He’s played nearly 100 times for England and has been a good professional.” 

The midfielder plays for Spanish giants Real Madrid but is soon to move to US side Los Angeles Galaxy on a mammoth pay deal. 

Following a return to form and a surprise international squad recall, he was set to play for England against Brazil in Friday’s friendly at London’s Wembley, the first full international at the new stadium. 

The Sun, in its editorial, backed Beckham for the honour, awarded by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

“Beckham was an inspirational England skipper. He helped Britain bring home the 2012 Olympics,” the newspaper said. 

“And with his wife, Victoria, he has quietly given huge help to charities, especially for sick children. 

“Instead of carping, we should all cheer when Her Maj says ‘Arise Sir David’.” 

But others were baffled at what the 32-year-old had done to deserve such a high honour. 

“Why did Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Bob Paisley and Brian Clough never get knighted but Alex Ferguson did? Why didn’t Bobby Moore, captain of the England World Cup-winning team, get one?” said former Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty, 78. 

“People who get knighthoods should be people who save lives. They seem to give them away now,” he told The Sun. 

Former England striker Jimmy Greaves, 67, said Beckham’s work for good causes involved little more than turning up for photo shoots. 

“I can’t think of a single reason why David Beckham should get a knighthood. It’s beyond me. He doesn’t even deserve the honour as a football player,” he grumbled. 

The downmarket Daily Star newspaper reckoned Beckham would be denied the honour because his wife Victoria, the former Spice Girls singer dubbed “Posh,” was not posh enough. 

The traditionalist Daily Mail said in its editorial that Sir David would sum up the outgoing Blair’s decade in power. 

“Years that have been characterised by political vanity, the cult of vacuous celebrity and politicians’ hunger to identify themselves with a fortunate few paid obscene sums irrespective of talent,” the tabloid said. 

“What can you expect from a Prime Minister who has debased the honours system? Arise Sir David and Lady Posh.” 

Beckham won six English Premiership titles, two FA Cups, one European Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup during his time with Manchester United. 

Blair’s Downing Street office has refused to comment, while royal officials never comment in advance on likely recipients of gongs. – AFP 

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