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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Beckham Experiment

"If someone's paying you more than anybody in the league, more than double anybody in the league, the least we expect is that you show up to every game, whether you are suspended or not. Show up and train hard, show up and play hard."

"I don't think that's too much for us to expect.”

They’re the words of one Landon Donovan, speaking, of course, about his L.A. Galaxy teammate David Beckham. Donovan has joined in a chorus of boos and jeers levelled at Goldenballs, a chorus that’s got even louder in recent weeks now that Beckham has actually returned to Los Angeles to play in the MLS.

The fans have turned against the man who proclaimed that he wanted to "take soccer in the US to another level” and “make a difference with the kids." Yet those words now sound hollow, especially after Beckham returned to Europe and A.C. Milan in a move that seemingly was aimed at maintaining his England career. That’s certainly the view of the fans who’ve been involved in two incidents with Beckham and certainly seem to wish that he would return to Italy full-time.

So, where did it all go wrong? That’s the question asked by Grant Wahl in his book, The Beckham Experiment. Wahl is the right man to write this book. As the chief soccer writer for Sports Illustrated magazine, he has been covering the Galaxy, Beckham and MLS throughout recent times and is able to give the fan a neutral, unbiased account of what happened, why, and who to blame. It’s from this book that Donovan’s quotes about Beckham hail. These quotes that are at least part of the reason that the American soccer public have turned against the Englishman and, surprisingly, they’re not even the best part of this book.

It truly is a fascinating read. Wahl details, in an in-depth fashion, where exactly the Galaxy/Beckham saga went wrong and it also explains why. Incompetence on the part of management is revealed, as is the true extent of the influence held by Beckham and his people. It is a book which is fair, if a bit anti-Beckham, but it as good a sporting exposé as I’ve read in a long, long time. And given the unfolding nature of the story, and how the fans are turning against Beckham, Wahl has given us a valuable document that explains what is happening to one of the most famous athletes in the world, and why he’s no longer the golden child of American soccer.


The Beckham Experiment is available to buy on Amazon, in all good bookshops and in some pretty lousy ones too.


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