Offside, 11 April: putting that foot in proportion

Have England's World Cup ambitions been shattered by a broken metatarsal?

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

A nation unites in grief. No, not the Queen Mum, but Beckham’s foot, of course.

Last week, Becks was injured by a Taliban-style horror tackle from Deportivo La Coruna’s Diego Tristan. Millions watched in stunned silence as Goldenballs was stretchered off in tears. ‘England’s World Cup rests on this foot’, screamed the front page of the Sun, beside a picture of Beckham’s heavily strapped ankle (1).

The first injury scare proved a false alarm. The sacred ankle was only badly bruised. The Daily Star, however, was quick to warn that ‘there are still 57 days to the big kick-off. Plenty of time for him to become the target of another madman who could cripple him – and stuff England’ (2).

Sure enough, one week later, a second terror strike from La Coruna hatchet-man Aldo Pedro Duscher broke a (metatarsal) bone in Beckham’s foot. The question now is ‘Who’s next?’. Michael Owen? Steven Gerrard? Every foreigner who plays in the Premiership is a potential tackle-terrorist (and that includes the treacherous Scots). Even overseas club colleagues should be treated as suspects. One over-the-top training ground lunge from Dietmar Hamann and Michael Owen could be watching the World Cup from a hospital bed. It’s a chilling thought.

The fact that Beckham’s assailant Aldo Pedro Duscher is an Argentine with a German name practically makes him a war criminal. Duscher can now expect the same sort of Bin Laden-isation that Diego Tristan suffered. The Mirror tracked down ‘Dirty Diego’ to his hideout in a Spanish fishing village where the striker tried to play the penitent card. ‘I am very, very sorry and I will say sorry to David when I see him’, said Tristan (looking suspiciously chipper as he posed for a photo with a copy of the Mirror). ‘It is something I am not proud of it at all. Now I want to forget all about it’, he added.

But nobody was going to let Dirty Diego forget. Even his own compatriots were outraged. ‘It was a terrifying tackle, a typical act of desperation’, said one Spanish commentator. ‘He shamed his team’, said the Spanish paper El Pais. ‘There was no sense to his actions. Maybe he should have got a red card’, said Deportivo coach Javier Irureta. Reportedly, Greek referee Cyros Vassara has become the most unpopular man in his own country for failing to punish Tristan’s tackle with a red card. ‘An accomplice to the crime’, ran the headline in one Athens sports paper. ‘He closed his eyes to the criminal foul on Beckham’, declared the paper (3).

Pretty soon, Butcher of La Coruna had started to tire of the relentless vilification. ‘People are giving too much importance to what happened’, complained Tristan. ‘I am hurt by the way the issue has been treated. What do people want me to do, go down on my knees to apologise?’ Well actually, yes, down on your knees, hands shackled, incarcerated in Camp X-Ray was what we had in mind. What Dirty Diego failed to appreciate was that when Beckham cries the world feels his pain. And no matter how many times he says sorry, we can never forgive the man who tried to maim Our Becks.

The hysterical reaction to David Beckham’s injured foot not only attests to the player’s remarkable iconic status but also exposes the wafer-thin foundations to England’s World Cup expectations. Can a team that is so reliant on one player seriously entertain ambitions of World Cup success?

As the nation prays for Beckham’s recovery, it is worth reflecting on the fact that Roy Keane’s hamstring injury may well prove more damaging to Manchester United’s fortunes. ‘United are not the same team without him’, said club colleague Ryan Giggs (4). England’s hopes might rest on Beckham’s foot, but in the Land of the Reds, Keano is king.

Read on:

spiked-issue: Sport

(1) Sun, 4 April 2002

(2) Daily Star, 4 April 2002

(3) Independent on Sunday, 7 April 2002

(4) I’ve never known Beckham so low Ryan Giggs, Sunday Mirror, 7 April 2002

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Topics Politics


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