DREAM­ING OF CUP GLORY

Could it be fourth time lucky for ‘Gold­en­balls’ at this year’s World Cup?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

AF­TER star­ring and scor­ing for Eng­land at France 1998, Korea/ Ja­pan 2002 and Ger­many 2006, David Beck­ham told Fifa.com that he was rel­ish­ing the prospect of ap­pear­ing in his fourth World Cup in South Africa in June and July.

The 34-year-old mid­fielder’s chances of be­ing in the Three Lions’ 23-man squad were re­cently dis­cussed by Eng­land man­ager Fabio Capello, who said: “Of course he will be in­cluded, if he plays (for AC Mi­lan) and is well phys­i­cally.

“I don’t look at ages. I look at skill and Beck­ham has a lot. He is se­ri­ous, a real pro­fes­sional and he is re­ally ded­i­cated to mak­ing the World Cup squad.”

In Fifa.com’s first in­ter­view of what prom­ises to be a spe­cial year, one of world foot­ball’s high­est-pro­file play­ers speaks about the highs and lows he has ex­pe­ri­enced at World Cups, his thoughts on cur­rent World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his hopes for Africa’s legacy post-2010.

David, you re­cently helped to launch Adi­das’s Jab­u­lani, the of­fi­cial match ball for the 2010 World Cup, in Cape Town. Have you had a chance to prac­tise with it yet and what do you think of it?

Yes, I had a chance to prac­tise with it a few months ago.

It is al­ways nice to see Adi­das’s ideas be­fore every­one else does and I think it’s great. The move­ment, ac­cu­racy, feel and look of the ball are per­fect – it is re­ally for the World Cup.

With 115 caps for Eng­land over the past 13 years, what changes have you no­ticed in in­ter­na­tional foot­ball dur­ing that time?

There have been many changes over the years: the game has got faster, the tech­nol­ogy has got bet­ter.

You ob­vi­ously see changes in the play in terms of tac­tics, the boots and the balls, but foot­ball is all about de­vel­op­ment and change.

What does play­ing in the World Cup mean to you?

It is the big­gest foot­balling com­pe­ti­tion in the world, so any player who is lucky enough to be part of a World Cup knows how spe­cial it re­ally is.

I have been lucky to have played in three and hope I will be luck­ier still to play in a fourth. It re­ally is an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing.

What are your first rec­ol­lec­tions of watch­ing the World Cup as a boy?

My first mem­o­ries are of watch­ing Bryan Rob­son score goals (against France in Spain, 1982).

He was my hero and I wanted to em­u­late ev­ery­thing he did in his ca­reer – and I have been lucky enough to do that.

The World Cup has also been a tour­na­ment that has given you some ca­reer lows. If you take a mo­ment to con­sider Eng­land’s ex­its to Ar­gentina in 1998, Brazil in 2002 and Por­tu­gal four years ago, which one hurt you the most?

Ev­ery one. You can’t de­scribe the feel­ing when you get knocked out of the com­pe­ti­tion.

The ex­pec­ta­tions of us as a coun­try and as a team are so high, so when you do get knocked out it is so dis­ap­point­ing. Ev­ery sin­gle time hurts the same.

You have played and scored in three World Cup fi­nals so far, but which match holds the best mem­o­ries for you?

On a per­sonal note I would have to say the game against Ar­gentina, in 2002, where I scored the penalty. It is al­ways spe­cial to beat your ri­vals, but ob­vi­ously four years ear­lier I got sent off against them and we were beaten on penal­ties. To score the winning goal against them four years later was ex­tremely spe­cial.

Ar­gentina now have a player in their ranks, Lionel Messi, who was re­cently voted World Player of the Year. What are your thoughts about

him?

Without a doubt, he is one of the best play­ers I have played against and also one of the finest play­ers I have ever seen.

For a lit­tle player, he’s so tal­ented. He’s the clos­est player to Maradona that you can get, and he even plays in a sim­i­larly pas­sion­ate way too.

He is suc­cess­ful and a re­ally good per­son as well. I am sure he will go on to be even more suc­cess­ful in the fu­ture.

Who do you think will be the key man for the Eng­land team this year and why?

I think we have many key play­ers in our team: Wayne Rooney, Steven Ger­rard, Frank Lam­pard, John Terry, Rio Fer­di­nand – we have play­ers all the way through our team who are ex­cep­tional. We’re lucky to have such a tal­ented group of play­ers.

This year will also be the first taste of a World Cup for Fabio Capello. Af­ter work­ing with him both at Real Madrid and now Eng­land, how do you think he’ll en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence?

Fabio Capello is a very spe­cial man­ager. He has so much ex­pe­ri­ence. He knows how to win games and he also knows how to win com- pe­ti­tions.

I am sure he will rel­ish the time when he walks out as Eng­land man­ager to take charge of the team for his first match at a World Cup.

To sit on the side­line and watch his team I’m sure will be a proud mo­ment for him.

You are in­volved with a num­ber of char­ity cam­paigns, such as Unicef and Malaria No More. What do you hope this World Cup will bring to South Africa and the African con­ti­nent?

Foot­ball changes peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes and I think this World Cup will bring ex­po­sure to cer­tain things. To some ex­tent it al­ready has.

In Cape Town, I vis­ited a hospi­tal where I met women and chil­dren with HIV – and that ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally touched me. So I hope that the bat­tle against dis­eases like that will be in the pub­lic eye.

The World Cup will also bring a lot of money to South Africa, which may help to re­gen­er­ate cer­tain parts of this coun­try. – Fifa.com

JUST A DREAM? Eng­land’s David Beck­ham is ea­ger to hoist the World Cup tro­phy, hav­ing tasted dis­ap­point­ment in France, Ger­many and South Korea/Ja­pan.

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