David Beckham is the ultimate football ambassador and the ultimate competitor. But the reliance of his country and his club on him has led the not fully fit superstar to a breaking point which was obvious in the dying minutes of the Galaxy’s 3-0 LA derby loss to Chivas USA last night. David Beckham’s globe trotting is not unusual in the world of football, even though the English media seems to be unfamiliar with international footballers traveling great distances to play for their nation. This past February, Mexico called up 11 European based players for a midweek friendly versus the United States in Phoenix. For Nery Castillo, perhaps Mexico’s best player (who was then based in Greece but now plays in the Ukraine) that meant crossing eight times zones much like Beckham had to cross to return to Los Angeles. The difference of course was that Castillo was fully fit and was able to contribute to his club’s matches both weekends sandwiched around his Mexico action. (Of course Castillo also had to fly back to Greece following Mexico’s 2-0 loss to the US to play for his club that weekend.) But David Beckham is far from fully fit.
What I have learned this week sadly is that David Beckham is seemingly being exploited by the LA Galaxy for marketing purposes beyond anything that is reasonable to ask of a footballer, and that England and its national coach Steve McClaren have absolutely no respect nor consideration for MLS, or perhaps for any club side outside of England.
Even though David Beckham had a great match in this past Saturday’s epic loss to the Red Bulls at Giants Stadium, Frank Yallop and the Galaxy brass badly erred in allowing him to play 90 plus minutes on artificial turf. I have no doubt that the speed and intensity of that match adversely affected Beckham’s ability to represent his country and ultimately paint MLS in a positive light at Wembley in midweek. But even more criminal was Steve McClaren whose own precarious job status allowed him to conveniently forget Wednesday’s match was a friendly and that Beckham was not fully fit. McClaren’s decision to play Beckham 90 minutes when he clearly protected other less than fully fit players who happen to play their club football in England was a smack in the face to Major League Soccer. The media outcry in London this week also once again demonstrated that the English seem to not realize that players from the USA, Mexico and other nations of the America’s as well as much of Asia and Africa fly great distances constantly to play for their nation.