David Beckham, the photogenic footballer who, outside of the royal family or the two surviving Beatles, is probably the world’s most famous Englishman, celebrates his 39th birthday on Friday, May 2. This will be the first birthday since he was 17 years old as just an ordinary person, not a professional soccer player.
But of course David Beckham will never again be just an ordinary person, and hasn’t been since he exploded onto the English football scene, signing with the powerhouse Manchester United club at age 16, first playing for their “training squad.” But by age 22 Beckham was named England’s Young Player of the Year, and a year after that he became one of the top players on England’s national team.
He went on to play more games for the national team than any other player in English history, as well as playing a key role on championship teams in four countries, England, Spain, France, and the United States. Here are five more fast facts about the living legend of the world’ most popular sport, who has become a global celebrity in his own right.
David Beckham’s Soccer Career Took Off At Age 11
The son of David “Ted” Beckham, a gas fitter, and Sandra, hairdresser, in the eastern London suburb of Leytonstone, David Beckham grew up in a football-crazy family and developed a passion for the sport as a small child — a passion actively encouraged by his parents.
At age 11, in 1986, young David Beckham entered the nationwide Bobby Charlton Soccer Skills Competition, a prestigious event similar to the American football “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition. And he won — recording the highest score in the history of the competition.
The pre-teen Beckham immediately drew the attention of prestigious school soccer programs and pro clubs. His future was already being written.
Beckham Met His Wife “Posh Spice” After She Saw His Photo
In 1997, the girl group The Spice Girls were the biggest music act in the U.K. One of the Spice Girls, Victoria Adams — known by her stage name “Posh Spice” — was shown a picture of David Beckham by a reporter during an interview. Not much of a football fan, she had never heard of him. “I had no idea who he was,” she said, “but I remember thinking one word: gorgeous.”
By that time, Beckham was a star with his boyhood favorite team, Manchester United. After a match soon after she saw his photo, Beckham and Posh Spice met and, she said, it was “love at first sight.” The rest is tabloid history.
David Beckham Was Named England’s “Most Admired Father”
Beckham and Victoria Adams had their first child, Brooklyn Beckham, in 1999 two months before they were married in an $800,000 wedding in Dublin. Their second son, Romeo, came three years later.
In a poll taken just a few years ago, David Beckham was chosen as England’s “Dad We Most Admire.”
Beckham Was Once Considered “The Most Hated Man In Britain”
During a World Cup match in 1998, David Beckham received a red card — an ejection — after kicking a player on the opposing Argentina team. Without their star in the game, England went on to lose the match on penalty kicks — and the entire country blamed Beckham.
He received a flood of hate mail and even death threats. The prime minister, Tony Blair even registered his disapproval, saying that Beckham “is obviously going to have to learn from this.”
David Beckham is England’s Richest Pro Athlete — Or Ex-Athlete
On the strength of his skill, charisma and not least of all, good looks, Beckham became a multimillionaire early on in his pro soccer career. In 1997 he signed an endorsement deal with sneaker-maker Adidas, a company he still represents today. By the next year, he earned $13 million from that and other endorsements.
By 2005 he was pulling in $30 million from endorsements alone. Today, he is estimated to earn $50 million per year, with an overall net worth of $330 million, making him one of the richest athletes, or former athletes, not only in England, but one of the 10 wealthiest athletes in the world.