|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham signs on as captain of Team UNICEF.|
First, you have to have dreamt where you want to be. Then, getting there is about a little luck and a lot of very hard graft. David Beckham set his heart on football as soon as he could kick one. And from the very start, that meant Dad’s team, Manchester United.
Through childhood and into his teens, first with his father and with friends, then with his local boys’ team, Ridgeway Rovers, and his school and representative sides, young David spent every minute he had working on his game and hoping that the call from Old Trafford would come. It did; he was 12 and, since then, has never really looked back.
David joined Manchester United as a trainee four years later. United enjoyed unparalleled success, at home and across Europe, not least when winning the treble of Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999. David found himself at the heart of an amazing Old Trafford adventure.
The following season ended in glory at the Nou Camp, as two late goals saw United beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. By then, David had become a father for the first time. It was as defining a moment in his life as anything he’s ever achieved as a player.
Road to the World Cup
In 2000, England’s caretaker manager, Peter Taylor, entrusted him with the captain’s armband for a friendly in Italy. When Sven Goran Eriksson was appointed as the long-term successor to Kevin Keegan, one of his first decisions was to ask David to continue in the job. A young and exciting team made it to the 2002 World Cup thanks, in part, to an inspirational performance by the skipper against Greece in their last qualifying game.
The tournament ended in disappointment, despite David having laid his own and the nation’s ghosts with a winner from the penalty spot against old rivals Argentina. England lost 2-1 to the eventual winners, Brazil, at the quarter-final stage.
Over the summer of 2003, the chance to sign for Real Madrid, the most successful team in the history of football, was an opportunity David could never have foreseen. For nearly 50 years, the world’s greatest players have donned the famous all-white strip to bring countless trophies home to the Bernebeu. For David, it was a chance for his career – and his life – to take another huge leap forward.
The next challenge lies ahead, captaining England through the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
David Beckham Academy launched
At the same time, David has been laying plans for the future that hark back to the earliest stirrings of his own ambitions as a footballer. He’s never forgotten how Bobby Charlton’s Soccer Schools in Manchester left their indelible mark on him as a youngster in love with the game. Ever since, David has dreamt of being able to give other children the chance to experience something like the excitement he did.
Now, that is happening. March 2005 saw the launch of the David Beckham Academy alongside London’s Millennium Dome. The Academy is a grassroots football project unlike anything ever seen before in the UK welcoming schoolchildren to a state-of-the-art facility including two full-size indoor pitches, classrooms, a dining hall, changing rooms and a medical station.
Coaching programmes are being designed and supervised by the man who brought David and his teammates through the youth system at Old Trafford, Eric Harrison. A sister Academy has been launched in Los Angeles. The new project will remain a focus and commitment for David well beyond his playing days and offers him the chance to give something back to the game he loves – the game that has made him a star.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
David has supported UNICEF since his days at Manchester United. In July 2001 he travelled to Thailand with the team on their pre-season tour. There he visited the UNICEF-supported Kredtrakarn Centre, meeting children as young as five who had suffered exploitation at the hands of adults. In 2003, David, as part of the team, helped to launch the UNICEF UK ‘End Child Exploitation’ Campaign.
In January 2005, the England football captain became a Goodwill Ambassador with a special focus on UNICEF's Sports for Development programme.
His first job as Ambassador was a visit to the organization’s Supply Division in Copenhagen, to see for himself the crucial work being done to aid 1.5 million children affected by the tsunami in South Asia. David then launched a global appeal to raise funds to support UNICEF's urgent humanitarian work in the region.
David has pledged his support for the current UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign and has taken part in a series of films to promote the campaign’s messages.
Being a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF is in an important focus in David’s life. “It is one of the proudest moments of my life to be given the role of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,” he says, “and I hope to play a part in supporting these children at their time of need.”