Dave-Ja-Vu: Seeing Beckham as a Hate Figure Is Nothing New

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IJuly 28, 2009

CARSON, CA - JULY 19:  David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy plays the ball during the friendly soccer match against AC Milan at The Home Depot Center on July 19, 2009 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Few players ever reach the heights that David Beckham has reached throughout his illustrious career.

He has played for three of the world's biggest clubs in Manchester United, Real Madrid, and AC Milan, has won 112 caps for England, more than any other outfield player in their history, as well as captaining his country, and has become arguably the most famous and recognisable footballer of all time.

Couple that with the fact he has played in three consecutive World Cups and won seven league titles, two FA Cups, and a Champions League, and you get a career everyone would be jealous of.

However, as with most players, Beckham has experienced the lows football has to offer as well.

His huge celebrity profile and media exposure make him an easy target when a fan, a club, or even an entire country need a scapegoat.

He learned this the hard way in 1998 after his "kick" (and I use that term loosely) at Diego Simeone earned him a red card in the World Cup match against Argentina.

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England went on to lose the match, and a country in mourning over another failed international tournament took it out on a young David Beckham.

He went from a budding superstar to a national hate figure with one swing of the very right foot that had earned him his original status.

Few people seemed to blame Simeone for making the most of what minimal contact there was, instead choosing to turn on one of their own and display the kind of hatred usually reserved for murderers, rapists, and paedophiles.

Death threats were sent to him, burning effigies were erected and hanged, and the Daily Mirror even printed a dartboard with his face on it.

It took him years to recover and even longer for the public to learn to love him again.

Some say it occurred with that free kick against Greece to send England to the 2002 World Cup, while others argue that full closure came when he scored the winning goal against Argentina in that World Cup to send them crashing out.

Rarely has a footballer ever experienced that level of hatred and criticism from any country, yet alone their own country, but Beckham showed his amazing strength of character and battled through it.

Now, over 10 years after the incident at the 1998 World Cup, Beckham is facing criticism from his own "fans" once again, this time at LA Galaxy.

The criticism this time is over Beckham's commitment after he went on loan to AC Milan in order to improve his England chances.

Once again, the criticism is unfair.

I understand the LA Galaxy fans' frustrations. I imagine they feel betrayed, let down, and cheated by Beckham, much like how I felt when I heard that Michael Owen had signed for Manchester United.

Of course, the two situations are different. After all, Beckham is still an LA Galaxy player, while it had been five years since Owen played for Liverpool. Beckham gave his word that he would try to help football progress in America, while Owen owed nothing to Liverpool.

However, there are also a lot of similarities, the most important of which is that both players did what was best for themselves and for their international chances.

I can't blame either of them.

As I said in my Owen article a few weeks back, you have to be selfish in football sometimes, and Beckham was selfish.

It's going to hurt the LA Galaxy fans, but in the same situation, I'm sure nearly all of them would've done exactly the same thing.

Beckham is set for life money-wise, so why, in purely footballing terms, would he rather be at LA Galaxy than AC Milan and England?

The answer is simple: He wouldn't, and unless they were a die-hard Galaxy fan, nor would anyone else.

Despite his strength of character, Beckham has never been the best at ignoring criticism. He is, however, one of the best at resisting it, and I'm sure he'll keep on giving 100 percent for LA Galaxy while he is playing there, no matter what a minority of the fans say.

He has been through much worse, and this undeserved status as a hate figure is nothing new to him.

Unfortunately for him, however, he will have to go through the process of proving himself all over again.

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