After all the articles and profiles that have been written about David Beckham, arguably the best soccer player to ever come out of the British Isles, more specifically England – one might be forgiven for wondering if hearing him tell the tale of his life, both as an athlete and as a man, is worth a read or not.
Both Feet on the Ground is a straight-forward memoir from a professional athlete who has soared from the absolute zenith, up in the rarefied air where very few ever find themselves, down to where he has found himself on more than one occasion, swooping low enough to scrape his knuckles and his self-esteem.
Beckham’s description of his early days in soccer and his respect for the coaches and managers that saw him on his way, are articulate and heartfelt.
His sense of self and family is well articulated as he talks about his Mom and Dad and his sisters, and how he grew up, with soccer being a central theme in his life always.
There is an undercurrent running throughout the book; a boy from London’s humble East End barely dared to dream about being a member of the exalted Manchester United soccer club, never mind going beyond that and hoping to captain England’s team in the World Cup; and when both of these things happened there was no-one more surprised than the central player – David Beckham.
Beckham’s remarkable story is told with a refreshing sense of modesty, candour, and naturalness, that makes his extraordinary life seem very real.
His description of his nervousness over meeting the love of his life, Victoria “Posh Spice” Adams, could be any young man’s love-story. It’s only over-the-top because the two people involved are David Beckham and Posh Spice.
In fact, no matter how elaborate the details or trappings, all the vignettes Beckham shares about his wife and family, ring true, when he recounts his feelings.
When he talks about having to ride with his eyes kept tightly shut on a small plane to Ireland – the place of their nuptials – so he won’t see his bride-to-be’s wedding dress – and then sit for a further twenty minutes on the tarmac once they land there, while the gown is bundled away – every husband, or soon-to-be husband – instantly relates to this ritual. And is immediately taken by the fact that even the great David Beckham had to dance to the wedding piper, when it came to not seeing his bride’s wedding dress before the big day.
Beckham’s recounting of kidnapping threats, and his sleeping in the room with Victoria and his new son Brooklyn the night of the baby’s birth, when he slept on the floor with his head pressed up against the hospital room door because, “…you can’t ever know…” gives the reader a glimpse of the security headaches this man must be faced with all the time.
Never mind the headaches, the fear of something happening to his loved ones, must be enormous.
The naturalness with which Beckham relates details of his personal life extends to his life on the soccer field as well.
The reader gets a feel for the intense love the man has for the game and for the country he represents when he plays in the World Cup. Even after some of England’s more rabid fans treated him abysmally after 1998’s disastrous red-card send-off in the game with Argentina, Beckham’s love for his country never wavered.
There are a few lines however where he speaks to the unreasonableness of some fans, especially those that spoke with vitriol and spewed poison that concerned his wife and son; he said, after all at the end of the day, it was just a game. A huge admission some might say, for an elite athlete.
Woven into the telling of this mega-celebrity’s day to day life, are some of Beckham’s personal high notes.
Aside from the professional and well-known peaks, such as captaining England’s World Cup team, Beckham shares some lesser known triumphs.
He talks about a young girl who he and Victoria have befriended, Kirsty Howard, a child who has raised enormous amounts of money for the Francis ouHou House Children’s Hospice. Beckham’s description of this special child and the friendship he and his wife share with her shows more of his sensitive side.
Throughout the book, the reader is reminded that David Beckham might be a terrific soccer player but that he has just as many foibles as the rest of us, and the one doing the reminding is Beckham himself.
The reader also gets a sense that Beckham is a decent human being. The few times he mentions philanthropic endeavours seem more to garner attention for the charities or causes themselves, then to laud his involvement.
This autobiography leaves one with the satisfying feeling that in no matter what kind of celebrity circles David Beckham finds himself, he is a grounded individual with good values and a wonderful sense of self.
A refreshing read about a very famous person who has had much misinformation written and published about him but who seems to have landed with aplomb and, with Both Feet on the Ground.
Both Feet on the Ground by David Beckham
Perennial Currents (and imprint of Harper Collins Publisher)