LONDON – Britain has been talking about just one story in recent days: Would David Beckham be able to bend it again in time for the soccer World Cup in South Africa?
|Paolo Bona / Reuters|
|David Beckham arrives at the airport in Milan on Monday on his way to Finland for surgery.|
Since the news broke Sunday that Beckham had ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing for the Italian team AC Milan, discussion of Beckham's ankle has dominated both news channels and sport radio stations.
All have been reporting constant updates on his visit to a special sports injury clinic in Finland for surgery and speaking to any medical expert who could talk on whether Beckham might pull through. Even British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent Beckham a get-well message, according to Brown's spokesman, Simon Lewis.
By Monday evening, despite declaring the operation a success, the surgeon said it would be months before he could play again.
"Finnished" was the headline in the Sun, a popular British tabloid. The "exclusive" article quoted a friend of Beckham's saying he had been crying and was in "deep shock" about the injury. The Times of London eulogized Beckham, describing him as a "cultural icon who came to define the beautiful game.''
Been here before
That said, the attention being given to Beckham's ankle is nothing compared with when Beckham broke his foot just months before the 2002 World Cup. Beckham, or "Goldenballs" as the British press dubbed him, was intrinsic to England's plans for the tournament.
In September 2001 his long-range late goal against Greece had secured England's unlikely qualification for the tournament. I remember watching the game in a pub that, like many across the country, erupted as the ball soared into the back of the net. He was voted Britain's sports personality of the year and Beckhamania was born.
|SLIDESHOW: Life of Becks|
When Beckham broke his foot in April 2002 – just two months before the World Cup was due to start – the country was stunned. Daily bulletins were posted on his health, a nation of people who had probably never even heard of the metatarsal bone before (the bone in his foot that Beckham had broken) became experts in how it could be mended. One tabloid newspaper even printed a full page photo of an X-ray of Beckham's injured foot urging the nation to pray for his recovery.
Beckham did become fit enough to play in the World Cup – either by divine intervention or more conventional means – scoring a vital penalty goal against rivals Argentina. However, England was later knocked out by eventual world champions Brazil.