David Beckham exudes a cool, James Bond-like vibe in his designer jacket worn over a white tee that hugs his toned torso. He still looks capable of delivering those bending freekicks that were his signature.
Beckham, an ambassador for Qatar, in an interaction organised by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, spoke about the excitement around Morocco’s dream run, and the coming together of fans as one big football family in Qatar as the highlights of his World Cup.
His favourite goal from the tournament, of course, is Mexico’s Luis Chavez’s free-kick strike against Saudi Arabia.
His World Cup experience
To have been here has been a real privilege to see the fans come together, the teams come together and the level of football that’s been played. And just a real family atmosphere in Qatar throughout this World Cup from day one has been incredible. You know, we’ve all talked about the surprises, the shocks, and the great performances. And, some of the obvious disappointments that have gone on throughout this World Cup on the field have been a real talking point.
The most striking feature of the Arab world’s first World Cup
I’ve played in three World Cups, and I’ve been part of, you know, other World Cups as a fan. And I’ve never seen an atmosphere like this before. I think it says a lot, you know when you see the number of families that are here and are enjoying this tournament, and that has been an incredible thing to see. It’s what the game should be about. I’ve always spoken about this game being for everybody, being for families. Families can come to these games and feel safe and enjoy everything that’s going on the field. That’s been an amazing part of this World Cup.
Atmosphere in stadiums
Oh, my goodness, you know, I’ve been lucky to have been to a lot of the games. Being in the stadium, when Morocco [is] playing, it’s a special atmosphere. It’s like a home game for the Moroccans. The team played with passion, with excitement, and people turned around to me and asked, “Are you shocked about the Morocco team going so far.” And at the start of the tournament, if you had said to me, “You know, Morocco, gonna reach the semifinals,” I would have probably said, “Well, I’m not sure about that.”
But when you are in the stadium, and see them perform, you see how technically amazing they are. They play with passion, they play with excitement, the way they pass the ball around, they’re very comfortable in just playing around with the ball in the defence, and that says a lot about the level of the team.
My favourite game of the tournament, I’m gonna have to say, was the Argentina vs Netherlands game. For me, that game had, as a football fan, everything. It had the drama, the penalties, and the level of play from both teams was exceptional.
On World Cup atmosphere
I’ve been able to walk around and meet so many different fans from different countries that are supporting different teams and players. You have people from Saudi that are congratulating Qatar on this World Cup, [and] you have Qatar congratulating the Saudis on their performances.
We were all shocked when Saudi [Arabia] beat the Argentinians. I don’t think I’ve ever seen countries come together as we’ve seen in this World Cup. We have seen when the Moroccans have gone as far as they have done, you have Qataris celebrating it, and you have the Saudis celebrating.
Level of play in the first winter World Cup
The level of play has been incredible. And I said this before the tournament started. People said it isn’t ideal. I was always a supporter of it. Just because I feel that in past World Cups, I’ve been part of, I’ve gone from a long, gruelling season into a World Cup.
Of course, you have some kind of exhaustion, mentally and physically. I knew that these players were coming into this World Cup, and once they were into it, then their fitness levels and energy were going to be a lot higher, and the level of the games was going to be higher, and that’s proved right.
I think the level of the play has been incredible. But my favourite thing about this World Cup is seeing fans together, seeing young children from England integrated with the fans from Morocco, or Saudi and celebrating their success. I don’t think I’ve seen a World Cup like this before. I don’t think I’ve seen fans come together like this before.
Watching more than one game a day
Not sure there’s going to be another World Cup where you can go and watch 2-3-4 games in one day. I don’t think that’s ever going to be possible again. But it’s been a privilege to be part of that. A privilege for a football fan to be able to go into so many games in one day, see the excitement, and see the fun that families and people have been having here. It’s been incredible.
On Messi and Mbappe
Kylian’s had a great tournament, I think the two goals that he scored in that one game [against Poland], the level of play [was] that we all kind of expect from Kylian. Whenever he gets the ball at his feet, you can feel the energy in the stadium lift.
And Lionel now, I mean, what can you say about him? He’s a special person, and a special individual, on and off the field. He plays with such elegance and passion. And I think this World Cup, more than any World Cup that I’ve seen him play, you know, it feels different. It feels different watching him play. He’s got a great team around him; he’s got teammates that are great players.
But he has been the leader of that team, and you can feel that in every single game that he’s played. He has kind of bought them through whenever they were going through a difficult time.
I think Richarlison’s scissor kick [Serbia] for me was one of the best. Personally, I’m going to have to say [Luis] Chavez’s freekick [goal against Saudi Arabia], being a fan of freekicks. That was a very special one. But there’s been great goals throughout this tournament. But if I had to pick two, then it’s Chavez and Richarlison.
On England’s performance
As I said, we have got players that have been part of this team now for many years, and they’re only 26 years old. You look at the quality of a Bukayo [Saka], and then you look at the quality of Jude [Bellingham], and the players that we have coming through in our country. I think there’s a real positive from these tournaments.
Whether you win them or get knocked out early, it’s always an experience that you can take on to the next, the next game and the next tournament. The Euros was a huge success for us. Yes, we didn’t end up winning the final, but the progression that we have as a country, and with our national team is incredible. And more importantly, the fans are right behind us as a nation and as a team. That’s such an important part of this.
The future’s looking bright, we have a lot of young players who are part of this team that enjoyed this World Cup, but then we’ll learn from it and take it on to the Euros and then obviously to the next World Cup.
Message to the English players
I think my message to them… They don’t need to hear a message from me, but I think, from my experience of, you know, being knocked out of competitions before, it takes a while to just kind of process and to look into why we didn’t go further as a team and whether we performed well as individuals.
But I think that they’re going to take a few, maybe not a few weeks of rest now, because they’re straight back into their seasons. But I think they can be proud of themselves. That’s all they need to hear right now. They can be proud of themselves as a team, the way they’ve conducted themselves, and the way they put everything into every game.
I think that’s an important part for fans to see. You want to see them wear that Three Lions shirt and give everything in every game, that they play. And that’s what this team does. It’s disappointing, and there’s heartbreak. Yes, it takes a while to get over these tournaments, but they will. They’re good enough. They’re strong enough. And they’re a great group of guys. And I think that’s what I said to a friend the other day when I was lucky enough to be invited down by Gareth [Southgate]. I came away from seeing all the players and spending time with Gareth.
We want them to do well and that generates throughout the whole country. You look at this group of players, and I’ve spoken about it before. They’re doing great things on the field, but they’re doing even better things off the field as well. And that brings love and appreciation for this team and them as individuals. We’re disappointed of course, but this team will move on and grow as a team and be successful.