David Beckham talks about ‘brutal’ reaction to World Cup sending off

David Beckham has spoken about the “brutal” reaction he faced following his 1998 World Cup sending off during a discussion about football’s mental health culture.

Beckham was vilified by some fans and sections of the media after England were knocked out of the tournament by Argentina, following his red card for kicking out at an opponent.

The former England captain said he was supported by his club Manchester United and family but it was an era when players did not speak out if they were feeling the pressures of the game – and he kept his feelings hidden.

Beckham was speaking during a video call convened by the Duke of Cambridge who has launched a declaration – signed by governing bodies, leagues and organisations from across UK football – to create a “mentally healthy culture” in the sport.

These organisations will form a UK-wide mental health implementation group next season, working towards a collective “game plan” to prioritise the psychological wellbeing of everyone involved with football.

Beckham, who is now co-owner of the US football club Inter Miami, said about his infamous World Cup match: “I made a mistake you know, I made a mistake in ‘98 and the reaction at the time was pretty brutal.

“I was constantly criticised on the pitch verbally. Like I said at the start of this, times have changed. If social media was around when I was going through that time in ‘98, it would have been a whole different story.

“But I was lucky. I had a support system in Manchester United and the manager and obviously family, but did I feel at the time it was OK to (go to) someone and say ‘I need help’?

“I would say no, no, it was a different era and I just felt I had to keep it all in and deal with it myself.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Beckham is shown the red card after a foul on Argentina’s Diego Simeone (Adam Butler/PA)</figcaption>
Beckham is shown the red card after a foul on Argentina’s Diego Simeone (Adam Butler/PA)

William asked about his job supporting his players at Inter Miami and Beckham replied: “Without a doubt, my role has slightly changed from being a footballer to now being an owner and it’s one thing obviously now being an owner of a football club, the most important thing to us is that our players feel protected.

“The pressures that your modern day athletes and footballers have, are taken care of, that’s the most important thing.

“Of course we want to be successful, but more importantly, we want our players to be looked after.”

The duke, who is president of the Football Association, also chatted to England and Manchester City Women’s captain Steph Houghton, Aston Villa and England defender Tyrone Mings, Crystal Palace and England midfielder Andros Townsend and managerial veteran Carlo Ancelotti, who is currently in charge at Everton Football Club.

The video call held earlier this month was made in support of William’s Heads Up initiative which this season has been encouraging football fans to talk about issues in their lives or be a sympathetic ear for a fellow supporter.

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