As one of the most recognized faces on the planet, football star David Beckham shows no sign of letting up now that he’s retired from the beautiful game. In fact the former England captain is turning his skills the world of business in a partnership with Sands China as well as using his name to promote football in the mainland. MDT spoke with China’s newest ambassador on his latest charity project, the experiences he’s had over the years on the pitch, and of naturally, his thoughts on this year’s upcoming World Cup.
Macau Daily Times – From being a sportsman, you’re now branching out into the world of business. Last year you signed a memo with Sands China where you plan get involved with more charitable activities and events. What was the motivation behind this decision and what do you hope to achieve?
David Beckham – Well obviously I’ve been a sportsman for the last 20 years and it’s a different role for myself, to go into the business side of things, but it’s something that I’ve obviously been planning for, for a while. I’ve been lucky to be in a position where on the business side, you know, I’ve had a few years to kind of adjust to this role. So it was kind of an easy transition, I kind of jumped into it the day after I finished playing, so it was an easy way for me to go from being a sportsman to being an owner and being on the business side of things, which I’m really enjoying. Obviously through the years I’ve been very lucky to work with some great people and some big companies, and when Sands came to me and mentioned their ideas and what they wanted to achieve with me and themselves, it kind of fitted in perfectly.
Because we work on certain concepts like retail, in restaurants, and also the charity side of things. So it’s working out really well so far. But what I love about Sands is that when they want to do something, it happens straight away; it doesn’t take 6 months or a year, they just kind of want to get going quickly. That’s kind of how we’ve worked. But we’ve worked that if it does happen quickly, it has to be done in the right way.
MDT – You’ve just come from Beijing where you announced a charity fund for youth football in China. What made you first decide on coming here, and how do you see yourself promoting Chinese football?
DB – Obviously my role as the ambassador of the Super League was kind of an interesting one, because there had been a lot of corruption over the last five years in the game here in China, and that had had been cleared up by the time I came on and started my role. But my role is pretty easy, because I sat down with the different clubs and officials, some of the players, and kind of just talked through my experience of being a player, my experience of being in Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, PSG, the Galaxy. It was an easy role for me to get involved in.
One of the things I always said is the importance of the youth system and the children in this country, because that’s our future, obviously. And it’s one of those things I love to be involved in. We announced the charity foundation last week where we’re supporting a concept to give children great facilities to play, great facilities to be [in], but it’s kind of also educating the parents as well. Because the parents – not every parent, but the majority of parents here – believe that the game is kind of harmful for the kids; it’s not aggressive but it’s a sport where children can actually get injured quite easily. So it’s kind of educating the parents as well as the kids.
MDT – Linking to that, do you think sports and charity are natural allies?
DB – Without a doubt. Football, and sports in general, is such a powerful tool. I think you see how it changes people’s lives, it changes people’s perceptions, and it changes people’s thinking at times. So without a doubt a lot of the work I’ve done over the years on the charity side has kind of always revolved around sport, because obviously I’m a sportsman. And it fits so perfectly because 95% of kids play some kind of sport, and if they don’t play some kind of sport then that’s what we get them to try to believe is right for them – not just for character building, leadership, but just also on the health side of things. You have to get children playing some kind of sport to keep them happy, healthy, and I believe that’s the best way of doing it.
MDT – Do you feel that when someone’s as well known as you are, there’s an obligation to use that fame in a positive way?
DB – Without a doubt. Obviously myself, being in the position I am, I’ve had a successful career. I’ve got a huge fan base in this part of the world, and if I can use that to give back to a sport that’s obviously given me so much over the years, then I hope I’m doing the right thing, and that I’m doing it well. I always wanted to give back and say thank you for the years that I’ve had playing the game and the sport that I’ve had, and if this is a positive way, then great.