He is the most photographed footballer in the world. Quite possibly the most photographed sportsman too. Yet amazingly there was still something new to learn about David Beckham.
England’s most capped outfield player, it emerges this morning, has suffered all his life from asthma but until now has managed to keep it a secret – and that despite sharing a dressing room for Manchester United and England with Paul Scholes, who also deals with the same condition.
Beckham was caught on camera as he puffed on an inhaler before extra time in LA Galaxy’s Major League Soccer Cup Final on Sunday night, and a few sharp eyed picture desks spotted the snap and started asking questions. Reluctantly his spokesman Simon Oliveira confirmed the story yesterday evening.
The news left us asking two questions. First of all, why has he never admitted it before? His autobiography, ghost written by Tom Watt, made no mention of it at all. Even his recent contribution to Watt’s brilliant coffee table book on the childhood of football stars from all over the world failed to own up on his boyhood health issues.
Second, is it a sign that the Beckham’s days are coming to an end? We’re looking ahead to South Africa expecting Becks to bring us one last hoorah, a couple of vital cameo performances off the bench for Fabio Capello’s side that could finally nudge England beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup.
Reading of his struggles to handle 120 minutes in Seattle, of needing three cortisone injections in his damaged right ankle, reminds me of how we thought Gazza might have a farewell impact in France in 1998 but instead never even got there.
Thankfully there’s a big difference. While Gazza back then was pressing the self destruct button, Beckham has a history of bouncing back every time you question him.
It took penalties against Real Salt Lake to stop him becoming only the second English player to win a title in three different countries – but he could yet do it with Milan. He joins them in the New Year, and given the way his life seems scripted it’s tempting to take the 13.0 for Milan to make up the seven point gap on 1.33 favourites Inter at the top of Serie A.
For kids everywhere whose life is blighted by asthma, the news that Beckham can be added to the star studded list of top sports people who have conquered the condition will be an inspiration.
For their sake you hope he’s got one more glorious twist to his amazing story still to come.
Five great sportsmen you might not have known suffered asthma:
1. Sir Ian Botham, greatest all-rounder of England’s cricket history scored more than 5,000 Test runs and took 383 wickets
2. Paula Radcliffe, world record breaking marathon runner still needs to regularly use her inhaler
3. Dennis Rodman, American basketball legend who won five NBA titles
4. Rebecca Adlington, double Olympic gold medal winner who first took up swimming as a child to improve her health
5. Austin Healey, Leicester fly half who played more than 50 times for England and also for the Lions
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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