Netflix’s ‘Beckham’ Explained: What Does The Docuseries Cover About The Footballer’s Life & Career?


To think of David Beckham as the subject of a blockbuster film is not very new or unnatural, as the footballer almost single-handedly heralded the tradition of sports stars turning into icons and celebrities during his career. But a few months after Beckham’s latest venture, Inter Miami, signed the arguably greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi, seems like a solid time to launch a documentary on the man. Netflix hardly ever misses out on such opportunities, and so the four-part Beckham docuseries is not very surprising. However, the sheer quality of the work and the star-studded appearances that it boasts definitely come as a pleasant surprise. Beckham takes us through the highs and lows of David Beckham’s football career and personal life without ever shying away from the difficult conversations. Beckham is undoubtedly one of the best sports docudramas on Netflix ever and is an absolute must-watch.

How did David Beckham’s career start out?

Born in London, David Beckham had quite a modest and working-class upbringing. His parents, Ted and Sandra, worked as a gas engineer and a hairdresser, respectively, meaning that young David’s life was not amidst rich luxury. However, along with his professional identity, Ted Beckham also had a different side to him, for the man was an immensely devoted football fan, always supporting the Red Devils of Manchester United. It was because of his father’s keen interest that David started playing football at a very young age. Ted would take his son around for training and to play local matches, and once the boy started showing promise, he recorded videos of David playing in the hopes of getting his son accepted into some football club academy.

As David reveals in the documentary and has also talked about earlier, Ted was often quite hard on the boy and had a typically old-school mindset when it came to training. He would rarely call his son’s efforts brilliant, even though David’s footballing prowess was quite on display even on youth teams, and instead wanted to push him even further. All of Ted’s harshness and young David’s efforts paid off when he was selected at the best club both the father and son could have wished for—Manchester United. David admittedly disliked moving away from London to Manchester at just sixteen, but he soon found a father figure in his new setting. This was none other than United coach Alex Ferguson (long before his knighthood). Sir Alex motivated and trained the boy into a prolific young footballer, even sometimes giving him the rare opportunity to watch the senior team play live.

David Beckham made his debut for the senior team in 1992 in a League Cup match against Brighton, and he then started playing in the Premier League in 1995. Playing in the important right midfield position, David gradually settled his place in the team at a comparatively young age. It was at the beginning of the 96-97 season, in a match against AFC Wimbledon, that David established his flair and style in the sport when he scored a freakish goal from the half-line mark. This astonishing goal, along with David having recently been given the important number 10 jersey, made him an instant hit among fans and the English crowd.

What followed the ’98 World Cup red card?

With success at the club level, David Beckham was soon selected to make his England debut in 1996, and this felt like his biggest achievement till now. But more achievements were to follow, as the young man was picked for the 1998 France World Cup tournament. Extremely excited to play for his country on the biggest stage possible, David started to face setbacks during this time, mostly because of his off-the-field decisions at the time. A charming and attractive athlete with quite a few brand engagements already, David was always in the media for either his footballing skills or promotional content. Along with this came the fact that he had started to date the Spice Girls’ Victoria Adams, and this brought together tabloids covering fashion and sports.

Before the beginning of the World Cup campaign in 1998, David asked the England team head coach, Glenn Hoddle, whether he could go visit Victoria for a few days. David reveals in the Netflix documentary that he had not seen his girlfriend for more than a month at the time, since Victoria and the Spice Girls were on a world tour. Irrespective of what Hoddle said (which is not really revealed), David took off and was photographed with Victoria. When he returned to the England camp, though, Glenn Hoddle publicly questioned Beckham’s discipline and dedication and then dropped him from the lineup in the first two matches. David made his way back into the team in the third game and also scored a free-kick goal to help England qualify for the next Round.

However, in the Round of 16 game against Argentina, David Beckham lost his calm and composure when veteran midfielder Diego Simeone tackled him. The young man threw his leg at Simeone in response, and Beckham was shown a red card for this action. With England down to ten men, the team managed to stretch the match into the penalty shootouts, in which Argentina came out victorious. The reaction from the English crowd was as it could be expected—Beckham was held single-handedly responsible for this loss and the exit from the World Cup. To make things worse, Glenn Hoddle also called out Beckham’s red card as the main reason for the team’s loss, and shameless targeting by the English fans followed.

In a present interview with the now Atletico Madrid manager, Simeone laughs about how he had instigated Beckham to gain an advantage over his talent and also admits that his kick did not deserve a red card. It is also revealed in Netflix’s Beckham that Victoria had informed David about her being pregnant with their first child only the night before this game. Although the two were extremely happy and excited to become parents, the pressure of becoming a father was also definitely on the player’s mind during the Round of 16 game.

Brutal persecution of David Beckham followed in the English media, and some fans even hung a doll of the player from a noose, perhaps signifying what should be done with him. The unreasonably tough and insensitive English fans did not leave any chance to call out Beckham and threaten him, booing the player for many months after the World Cup incident. The footballer, still just a 23-year-old man, suffered from depression and self-persecution, and the worst part was that people were not aware about how important it was to cater to one’s mental health at the time.

As David admits in the Netflix series, his father’s training and mindset helped him recover from all this bullying and criticism. In response to all this, Beckham simply performed brilliantly on the field and ultimately spearheaded Manchester United’s historic treble win in 1999.

What was the infamous boot incident?

David and Victoria got married in July of 1999, following which her influence on David’s life naturally increased. As the man still admits, Victoria guided him in the right direction. However, it was believed that Victoria’s presence was not very well received by United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Interestingly, Sir Alex also appears in the documentary series and talks about how fame and glamor were getting to David’s mind and gradually changing him. Although Beckham does not believe this, the gradual misunderstanding and difference between the player and the manager took on an ugly form in 2003.

Beckham had been dropped from the starting lineup in a few games, replaced by treble legend and later United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He was then chosen to play in a game against Arsenal, in which United lost, and the tension could be evidently felt in the locker room post that game. Only some months earlier, at the beginning of the season, a new assistant coach had been hired. This assistant, Carlos Queiroz, apparently made Ferguson believe that Beckham had wrongly trained to gain upper body weight only for the financial purpose of shooting an advertisement. As can be guessed, tensions between the player and the coach were already quite high when, after the loss against Arsenal, Beckham cussed at the man.

Sir Alex responded by kicking one of the boots straight at David’s face, leading to a nick above his eye, and Beckham responded by attacking the manager. The other players and staff members had to intervene to keep the fight from getting ugly, and this marked a complete fallout between the two. At the beginning of the next season, during the summer transfer window of 2003, Manchester United accepted a bid from Barcelona for David Beckham. This came as an absolute shock for the player, for he still states that he had never wanted to leave his boyhood club. But since Beckham was anyway being forced out of his favorite club, the player decided to choose his own destination and became the newest Galactico at Estadio Bernabeu.

How did Beckham’s time at Real Madrid lead to trouble in his personal life?

Along with most of David Beckham’s teammates and coaches, Netflix’s Beckham also brings Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid FC, in front of the camera. When asked as to why he had decided to bring Beckham to Madrid, Perez quite simply states that this decision massively increased profits through shirt and merchandise sales for the club. The player’s success on the field was not as immediate though, as he needed some time to stick in with his new teammates and also the new city and country as well.

It was primarily because of these new surroundings and the fact that David was now living alone by himself that a severe problem arose in his personal life. At the time, Victoria did not move to Madrid with him simply because their two sons, Brooklyn and Romeo, were studying in schools in England. Since David’s move to Real Madrid came very suddenly without much prior discussion, the family could not get the kids enrolled in a school in Spain either. Thus, David was alone in Madrid, and it was claimed after a few months that he had apparently had an extramarital affair with his secretary during this time.

Netflix’s Beckham director Fisher Stevens directly questions both David and Victoria about this time and its effect on the couple, and they both open up about the struggles they had to face. Although neither confirms whether the affair had actually taken place, David admits that the reports and articles at the time really pressed on his and Victoria’s personal lives severely. Calling these months the most difficult time during their entire marriage, David admits that he really does not know how they managed to pass through the time and once again become a perfect couple.

Eventually, the Galacticos team started failing to win any competition, and many of the star players were sold off, also leading to numerous managerial changes. When Fabio Capello joined as the new manager and benched both Beckham and Ronaldo Nazario, the English player was quite disturbed by the situation. Since neither his professional nor his personal lives were being benefited by his presence in Madrid, David Beckham decided to sign a contract agreement with the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS. Victoria also admits in this instance that settling in the USA was always something that would help the family, and the Beckhams eventually moved to the land of Hollywood.

Where did David Beckham end his career?

Despite the comparatively lower level of competition and infrastructure in Major League Soccer, Beckham continued to play for the LA Galaxy while his kids got enrolled in American schools. Life was going great for the family since they could avoid the attention of the media much more easily than in England or Spain. Eventually, before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the then England coach Fabio Capello gave David one condition for him to be considered for the English squad—that he return to Europe and play high-level football at least for a few months.

Beckham agreed to a six-month loan deal with AC Milan in Italy and rather enjoyed his time there, even wanting to make his move permanent. However, the LA Galaxy did not allow for this, and after some problems with club legend Landon Donovan, Beckham eventually returned to winning ways with the American team. But gradually, with time, he also started to realize that his body was giving up due to increasing age. Beckham was considering retirement when he received a call from PSG, who were undergoing a makeover under the new Qatari owners. David Beckham finally played his last football match in May of 2013, at the age of 38, for PSG at the Parc des Princes stadium.

Since then, David Beckham has not really stepped away from football, though, as after multiple TV appearances as a pundit, the man exercised his option to buy an MLS franchise team. As part of a league expansion, Beckham’s Inter Miami entered Major League Soccer and most recently acquired Lionel Messi on a two-year contract. The effect of Messi, both on and off the field, has been immense so far, and how successful David Beckham can be as a businessman remains yet to be seen. Netflix’s Beckham finally ends with a domestic scene of David spending time with his family and then practicing with his son Romeo, who is also a professional footballer currently playing for Brentford’s junior team in England.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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