David Beckham choked back tears as he spoke candidly about his life and career in a new Netflix docu-series that reflects on his three decades in the spotlight.
The sportsman, 48, burst into the limelight at the tender age of 17 as Manchester United’s budding new midfielder, quickly earning himself the reputation as football’s golden boy and one of the most talented players of his generation.
How Beckham suffered from depression
Yet his career threatened to be derailed when he was blamed for England’s World Cup 1998 exit after lashing out at Diego Simeone, sparking a lengthy campaign of hate and abuse from fans.
Reflecting on the turbulent period, which David faced at the age of just 23, the athlete confessed he was a ‘mess’ and left unable to eat or sleep, with his wife Victoria, 49, revealing he suffered from clinical depression and the experience ‘broke’ him.
David recalled feeling ‘very vulnerable and alone’ as he landed back in the UK to hordes of jeering spectators and negative press, with his father Ted admitting David was ‘distraught’ when he met him, saying the young sports star ‘fell into my arms and said, “I’ve left everybody down.”‘
The night before the World Cup game, David had learnt that Victoria was pregnant with their first child and after touching down in England to see his parents he wasted no time jetting off to New York to spend time with his expectant fiancée – who was touring the States with The Spice Girls.
The inhumane treatment
David, who received death threats and had effigies made in his likeness, went on to detail the impact it had on his parents, Ted and Sandra, noting: ‘It brought a lot of attention that I would never wish on anyone, let alone my parents and I can’t forgive myself for that.
‘That’s the tough part that happened then. I’m 47 years old now and I beat myself up about it still. Inside it killed me.’
As David’s teammate Phil Neville spoke out about the ‘inhumane’ way David was treated by the nation, Victoria remarked: ‘He was really depressed, clinically depressed.
‘It pained me so much. I still want to kill these people [for how they treated him].’
Victoria also took aim at the 1998 World Cup manager Glen Hoddle, seething: ‘He didn’t come out and try to protect David and how old was David, 23?
‘You’re a kid at 23 and Glen Hoddle was a man – well I wouldn’t even call him a man actually, he was an older person – I mean the absolute hate, public bullying…’
Thankfully, David was able to redeem himself when he took on Diego once again at the Manchester United vs Inter Milan Champions League quarter final in 1999.
Yet while all eyes were on David and his grudge match with the Argentinian player, David confessed his thoughts were consumed by the fact Victoria could welcome their first child any at any day because she was already two weeks over her due date when the match occurred.
It caused tension between the pair, with teammate Gary Neville recalling hearing the pair bicker over the phone.
‘They were at each other, he was distracted, ‘ Gary noted. Victoria was saying “if you’re not here, if you miss this birth, if you’re not back…” and I went, “turn your f***ing phone off, you’ll be melted by the time we get to the game tonight.”‘
After a rocky start to the game, David was able to find solace in the crowd chanting his name, helping Manchester United spur on to a 2-0 victory.
The couple welcomed son Brooklyn
He was able to make it back in time for the birth of his first child and was by Victoria’s side for her caesarean section, with Victoria quick to clear up: ‘I wasn’t too posh to push, I was told it would not be safe for me to be put into labour.’
The couple welcomed son Brooklyn on March 4, 1999 at Portland Hospital in London, with David calling fatherhood ‘the most amazing thing’.
Yet even the prospect of welcoming his first child wasn’t enough to stop him from thinking about his image, with Victoria recalling that when she was in labour and lying in bed numb from the waist down due to an epidural, the footballer had cheekily asked if she could style his hair.
Upon becoming a father though, his priorities shifted, with David recalling: ‘I all of a sudden thought, “how am I going to protect him?”
‘That night Brooklyn slept next to Victoria, she said “come sleep on the bed with me” and I said “absolutely not”, I slept with my head facing the door, because I was paranoid someone was going to steal him.
‘It’s meant to be a happy moment, and it was a happy moment of course, but I was worried. I didn’t want him to come into this life at a time when I was going through what I was going through.’