Miami, Florida: Footballer, fashion icon, film star and touchline dad. Captain, coach, role model and husband to a pop star. The life of David Beckham has been nothing if not varied and, having retired last year from his main career as a player, the new focus for his professional life was finally confirmed on Wednesday night.
After spending £15.3 million to buy a new Miami-based franchise in Major League Soccer, we now have Beckham, the football club owner. His latest reinvention and unveiling took place at a downtown Miami art museum, with an hour-long press conference doubling as an exhibition in charm and diplomacy.
“We want to create a football club that is a people’s football club — this is a dream, I’ve lived the dream,” Beckham told a crowd of around 300 assembled media. By the end, audible chants of “Beckham, Beckham” could be heard among the locals over a live video stream that was being beamed around the world.
There are still likely to be plenty of sleepless nights before Beckham’s latest dream is realised. The option to eventually buy an MLS franchise had been part of the original deal to bring Beckham to the United States from Real Madrid as a player in 2007 and the challenge that awaits is to build a football club, quite literally, out of nothing.
Simon Fuller, his long-standing manager, is among the partners. The National Basketball Association (NBA) star LeBron James is also expected to join the venture.
The first major challenge is to locate and fund a new stadium. Investors are actively being sought, with Beckham having already met Carlos Gimenez, Miami Dade’s county mayor, about possible locations. The assurance that the stadium would be funded privately rather than through public funds drew applause yesterday, with Beckham stressing that he wanted a downtown location in the heart of Miami.
A site in PortMiami, the world’s busiest cruise port in 2013, has apparently been identified. The port is within walking distance of the NBA’s Miami Heat arena and within easy reach of the Miami Beach hotel district. The previous Miami Fusion MLS team folded in 2001 amid huge losses and a lack of public support.
At the time, Fusion owner Ken Horowitz said that the diversity of the local fan base had made it difficult to retain fans. Beckham is already working hard to engage with a community in Miami Dade that is 64.3 per cent Hispanic. “We want to create a football club that is the people’s football club,” he said.
“We can’t build a stadium in two weeks or six months — this is obviously going to take time. The people and city deserve a stadium they are proud of. They deserve a stadium in the right place, it’s a community.”
Mayor Gimenez appeared similarly enthused, talking of how the new stadium would soon form “the fabric of Miami and become something that can be left for our children and grandchildren”.
At just about the same time, an aeroplane passed overhead dragging a banner that read: “Beckham, don’t trust Gimenez.” As well as a new world of politics, Beckham must now address the practical realities of building a football team. It is thought that his new club, which does not yet have a name, will be ready to enter the MLS in 2016 or, perhaps more realistically, 2017.
The issue of a manager was raised, with one journalist sufficiently abreast of the politics of recent English club football to cheekily suggest the name of Sir Alex Ferguson. The former Manchester United manager recently published his autobiography in which he described disappointment at how, in his opinion, Beckham’s development as a footballer became compromised by his celebrity lifestyle.
Ferguson did, however, also laud Beckham’s “amazing” tenacity in pursuing his dreams. “Funnily enough, no, he didn’t call or text,” Beckham said. “He is a great manager, he gave me the chance to play for my boyhood dream club.
“Unfortunately he is retired, but everything has to be right. The coach is very important. I have been managed by some of the great coaches — I know what makes a great manager and doesn’t. We will have a great coach here.”
No names were mentioned but Beckham also revealed that some of his former teammates had already been in touch about playing. “I’ve seen the change in this league, the interest in this league,” he said. “We want to bring some of the best football players in the world, great players, to this team.
“Players are already interested in coming to Miami. We have a list of players. I have been very lucky to have played with some of the best players, they have been calling me up, saying, ‘Miami? Great. When does it happen, how can we get there?’ We want the best.
“Nothing successful in life is easy. You have to go through certain tough times to come out at the end being successful. There’s going to be a few bumps along the way, but we’re going to make the team in Miami not just the best team in America, we’re going to take the team global.”
It all might sound wildly optimistic but, if there is one lesson from Beckham’s life to date, it is that any temptation to underestimate him should be resisted.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2014