Beckham to reject England farewell game
LONDON – David Beckham will reject the chance to make one final appearance for England, a person familiar with the former captain’s plans said Thursday.
Coach Fabio Capello announced Wednesday that the 35-year-old Beckham was too old to continue playing competitively for England, but offered him an opportunity to say farewell to fans in an exhibition match.
Beckham, who is recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury that denied him a trip to a fourth World Cup, has played 115 times for England, second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton on the country’s all-time appearance list.
And the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder has said repeatedly that he wouldn’t retire from England duty while still playing soccer.
“It would seem strange to say you are not retiring then to signal your retirement in a benefit match,” the person familiar with Beckham’s plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Thursday because Beckham has yet to announce his plans. “It’s not going to happen.”
So revered is Beckham in England that local media lashed out at Capello for essentially retiring him on TV rather than notifying him directly.
In a hostile media conference after England’s 2-1 victory against Hungary on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium, Capello backtracked and said Beckham could end his 14-year international in a friendly match – possibly in November against France.
But when Beckham was ruled out of the June 11-July 11 World Cup after surgery on his left Achilles’ tendon in March, Capello had insisted that he could still play a part in the 2012 European Championship.
“I hope he will be fit for the Euros because he is always one of the best players,” Capello said.
Such confusion from Capello has prompted the volatile British media to lash out at the Italian, who is already under fire following the team’s second-round exit at the World Cup.
The Daily Mirror called Capello “Dumb And Dumber” and The Daily Telegraph described this as “Another Fine Mess.”
“Blundering England manager Fabio Capello’s battered reputation sank even further,” the Daily Express wrote Thursday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday paid tribute to Beckham, who made his England debut in 1996.
“We will all remember some of those great free kicks, some of those great moments that he’s been responsible for,” Cameron said. “I’m sure lots of people will be sad that he’s not going to be playing for England again.”
Beckham has never won the international honors to put him alongside the likes of 1966 World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton in the pantheon of true England greats, but he arguably contributed more to the national side over the past 14 years than any other player.
Still, Beckham is well acquainted with the highs and lows of international football. He was blamed for England’s elimination from the 1998 World Cup for his petulant red card against Argentina, but scored the winning goal against the same team at the World Cup four years later.
He responded to jeering at the 2000 European Championship with an obscene hand gesture to England fans, but was lauded by the same supporters little more than a year later when his last-minute free kick against Greece secured a place at the 2002 World Cup.
The latest revelation already has some speculating that this may not be the end of Beckham’s international career, especially if Capello’s spell in charge of the side ends soon.
Capello dropped Beckham in January 2007 when both were at Real Madrid after the midfielder announced that he would be leaving for Major League Soccer. But Beckham won over his coach with his attitude in training and made a scoring comeback a month later.
And more pertinently, England dropped Beckham in August 2006 in an effort to renew the team with younger players after a quarterfinal exit at that year’s World Cup. Coach Steve McClaren recalled him the following year after a run of stuttering form, and he returned for the remainder of England’s unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
“Look at the way he has adapted going into different cultures and different football clubs and the way he won over the Real Madrid fans and then went to MLS and then Italy with AC Milan,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. “He has been an amazing example and I don’t think he is getting the right credit yet.
“When he retires, people will realize the footballer he was behind the brand of David Beckham.”
Beckham, who has played mostly as a substitute over the past two years, has said he is not retiring from international football and will play if selected.
“I still wouldn’t write him off yet and I wish him well,” said Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who was at Manchester United during the first five years of Beckham’s career. “He’s a decent lad and he’s always been absolutely 100 percent dedicated to football.
“Once he gets himself fit again, you never know because he’s a resilient so and so.”
Bruce said that the whole furor may simply be down to Capello’s struggle to master the English language. British papers have regularly highlighted the Italian’s inability to speak English fluently after two years in the country.
“Sometimes if we’re looking at Fabio Capello, I think it’s a communication problem and I think we witnessed that last night,” Bruce said. “It is difficult, it would be like us going to Italy. There’s a whole different culture and we have to respect that.
“I believe it’s the language barrier more than anything. As soon as I heard it last night, I thought, well is that the end for David? Whether he meant that, I don’t know.”
– AP sportswriter Stuart Condie contributed to this report
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