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Thursday, April 22, 2004

PREMIER REPORT

Lives of Beckham, Keane provide tabloids endless fodder


LONDON -- An apology. Those of you hoping for a column that does not mention David Beckham or Roy Keane will be disappointed.

Christopher Davies

I would like to promise that next week's column will be bereft of the former Manchester United teammates, but apart from the closing stages of the Premiership and La Liga, semifinals of the Champions League and who will be Chelsea's next manager, there is little else going on.

The Daily Mirror informed us earlier this week that this was "The Becks Sex Scandal, Day 14" thus elevating an apparent act (or three) of adultery to Middle East war proportions.

Mind you, a Republic of Ireland supporter on a Dublin radio phone-in show called the Keane saga "our Sept. 11," leaving listeners wondering whether to laugh or cry when he compared an international comeback with a terrorist attack.

Another suggested a national referendum on Keane's pending return to the Irish fold. Worryingly, he is still at large.

Rebecca Loos, who worked for Beckham's former PR company before Posh smelled a rat and "advised" her husband to change publicists, funnily enough to the company that handles her interests, "told all" on a Sky One interview after a rain forest of newspaper coverage.

The unfortunately named Miss Loos has, according to PR guru Max Clifford, made £850,000 so far for "revealing all" but he assured us her motive was not to throw an industrial strength spanner in Beckham's marriage, but to ensure she never has to work again because what happened ensured she could never work again.

No, I can't work it out either. Or Miss Loos' assertion that the alleged fling which she described as "a hiccup" might actually be good for the Beckhams' marriage.

"Every relationship goes through hiccups and that's what keeps a relationship strong, keeping it going in many ways," she explained. So now we know. The more unfaithful someone is the stronger their marriage can become.

In what was billed as "a hard-hitting interview that pulls no punches" Miss Loos declined to answer when she was asked whether Beckham was circumcised, but gave a totally unsurprising reply to a question that surely did not need an explanation: "What exactly do you mean when you say you are bisexual?"

The "Becs Love Becks" story has given the tabloids a license to thrill with some wonderful anecdotes, such as Beckham climbing on the roof of their house to smash the satellite dish so Posh could not see the interview with Miss Loos -- dubbed "the sleazy Senorita" -- on Sky TV.

What casts doubts on the validity of this is that Beckham was in Spain with Real Madrid at the time, but it is still a terrific yarn.

The News of the World, which broke the story about five years ago (so it seems) ran a front-page story that Beckham had confessed all about Miss Loos to his wife, with intimate details of what was "said" spread over two pages inside.

The following day The Sun declared that "despite reports Becks confessed all to Victoria that he had an affair, The Sun has been told that is not the case," thus rubbishing the story in its sister paper 24 hours earlier.

Some of the revelations from "a pal" or "a source" have bordered on the hilarious. Quite how everything that the Beckhams say to each other and their intimate feelings are told to outsiders is unknown.

Maybe they have an agreement that every hour they both phone (or text message) "friends" to relate what has happened and their current state of mind over the previous 60 minutes "and don't forget to pass it on to the papers."

Reading about the Beckhams makes me realize how dull my life is. Last weekend I drove my son to and from Portsmouth vs. Manchester United "because I'm a bit cheap dad."

There was a problem with my pass at the game, which was frustrating, but I could not feel sorry for myself because there are many people, such as the Beckhams, far worse off than me.

I bought my son a take-out meal at McDonald's on the way home and then told my better half that I could not see Steve and Lorraine for lunch a week from Sunday, because I was covering a match and I hadn't been told about the lunch anyway.

She insisted I had been told, so like any decent wimp I gave in and said I was wrong and she was right. I always have the last word in any argument, which is usually "sorry."

Could a red top have made four pages out of that?

If I was David Beckham, undoubtedly, though I have managed to condense it into two paragraphs for which you should be grateful.

Meanwhile, the backs of the papers have been speculating about Beckham leaving Real Madrid to return to England, for the sake of his marriage of course.

Chelsea, which is linked with a minimum of 30 players each week under new Premier League regulations, is said to be willing to pay £20 million, £25 million or even £30 million to bring Becks home -- I wonder which figure Real would prefer?

Beckham, with a new shaved head look, was back in England briefly last Monday, when Posh sang at a party for her manager Simon Fuller at the Royal Albert Hall (where else?). The body language analysts had a field day picking through how the couple acted together.

They would also no doubt have plenty to say when Keane meets Jason McAteer on Sunday as the Republic of Ireland squad gathers in Dublin for next Wednesday's friendly against Poland in Bydgoszcz.

It was Keane's criticism of the Football Association of Ireland, manager Mick McCarthy, his staff plus the players that led to the player being sent home from the pre-2002 World Cup base in Saipan.

Half of those selected for the game in Poland signed a players' statement, issued at the World Cup, which said they felt it was in the best interests of Irish football if Keane did not return to the squad (in Japan).

"He thinks we're sh**," was the comment by McAteer when he read Keane's views in a newspaper interview and three months after the finals, the United captain was sent off at Sunderland for elbowing McAteer in the face.

Their reunion in Dublin will be interesting because, despite the inevitable public words of support for Keane, many of the players from 2002 have privately neither forgiven or forgotten the man who turned his back on Ireland.

McAteer memorably said that instead of buying Keane's autobiography he bought his son a Bob the Builder video.

Manager Brian Kerr said: "I can understand players who, in the past, played for Ireland with an unbroken record having difficulties with it and why some fans have some lingering annoyance at what happened in Japan.

"I don't envisage any problems. We're all mature and have moved on and if there are any problems, I would expect them to be sorted out quickly."

This is exactly the sort of trip that frustrated Keane so much the first time around with Ireland, a friendly in provincial Poland as the Premiership title race draws to a conclusion.

At least the 130-seater charter plane will have only 100 seats filled, as 20 are being left empty to provide extra leg room for the players in what will probably be called Keane Class.

Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.


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