One of the earliest memories I have of the most popular sport in the history of the world is jumping out of my chair in front of the computer screen as my father and brother screamed with the most unheard of screams I’ve ever heard. , when he scored the legendary goal that gave Greece victory over Portugal in the Euro 2004 final.

I remember screaming too (from my terror) and I think that was the first moment I understood that “football is not just a sport”. I remember two summers later an Italian woman was close to going crazy from her anxiety, in a cafe in Kefalonia during the World Cup final.

I remember gatherings at our house to watch a game being a ritual, I remember season tickets, my brother’s knee pads, sticker albums, a boy canceling a date ‘because he has a game’. I remember everything, even the fact that 97 people were trampled during a match in England in 1989, the famous Hillsborough disaster.

But none of this had made me understand how deep football fanaticism can go, as we all know by now “Beckham”, the documentary series that was released a while ago on Netflix.

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In this documentary series the life of David Beckham, of the big football star who turned into a media celebrity, is squeezed into 4 episodes of about an hour and a half each, managing to illuminate parts of his career that most people had no idea about. “Come on baby, it’s all nonsense about the francs again, all the shoppers make their lives reality”, was the first reaction of many, but also, I won’t hide it, mine. Fortunately life is here to disprove us, if we give ourselves the opportunity of error and revision.

I gave her too. For 3 days, as long as it took me to finish it (with a great effort of self-restraint not to summarize it in one, since from the first minute it proved to be addictive), I thought about almost nothing else, and for as many more after that I didn’t talk about anything else. The excellent production, excellent footage, talks with former players, coaches and journalists, as well as the wealth of video footage (his father was obsessed and filmed Beckham in over 1000 games before he was even an adult) helped to create an effect that balances between the commercial and the realistic.

“Beckham”, is clearly a psychograph of David Beckham and his surroundings, with a special look at the events and behaviors that had a direct impact on the player’s psyche. Particular emphasis is placed on an ambitious and obsessive father, who tries to project his own dreams onto his son, as what he wanted more than anything was “his son to play for Manchester United, the club of his heart”. And he succeeded.

What impact did this have on a child? Huge

In an age and a generation that had learned that “if I told him how good he was, he would have no reason to bother”, David Beckham’s father, at the altar of his vanity, raised him with military discipline and an obsession to become good at football . The natural consequence of such an experience is that the mistakes in relation to the object of obsession are not forgiven, by others, but mainly by the person who has suffered all this pressure.

His father’s personality was a microcosm of the entire community of Manchester United fans, who worshiped David Beckham as their new god in the early years of his highly successful run. All this until the final of the World Cup in 1998 against Argentina, where Beckham, due to unprofessional behavior, “eats” a red card. And this is the beginning of the end.

There followed months of hateful incidents directed at him, from acts of humiliation towards him when he was met outside to taunts to death curses in public at the matches he participated in. From god, he had become nothing, he was hated by the whole country. To people who watch football this may all seem normal, if not normal, but it was certainly a whole new, harsh world for me.

I watched all this cannibalism in awe, like I was watching a thriller. When you play football for an audience so fanatical it becomes a disease, you are a pawn. Your legs, your movements do not belong to you. It is forbidden to make mistakes and if you do, you will pay dearly, with the cancellation of your entire professional persona. At a time when mental health was seen as something extremely secondary and unimportant, as the documentary highlights, there was zero scrutiny of the impact fan attitudes could have on players’ mental health.

“Even today I feel guilty and I’m not over it,” Beckham says at one point about this whole dark period, and I reflect on how too often players and athletes in general identify their entire worth based on their performance on the field. As if they were carrying the entire weight of the country, unliftable. Apparently it is a Netflix production, with the aim of “weaving Beckham’s eulogy”, as is characteristically mentioned at some point in the documentary. Is it finally the price you pay when you choose to engage in the most popular sport in the world, as if you were told “did you know what you were getting into”?

And yes David Beckham made millions, but how much money buys mental health?

There’s often a perception that billionaires don’t mind going all out because they have a lot of money, which if you ask me is a pretty dangerous point of view as it confuses two different concepts, and there’s a danger of getting used to being brutal towards someone just for the sake of it. because he has more money, so he justifies himself there.

“What did you like so much about this documentary,” asked a friend of mine. I liked that I disliked Beckham, and seeing even a part of his life, even if it was shot from a favorable, towards his face, look, I felt a form of compassion for him. I tried to understand him, to see behind the facts and what is projected. As for Victoria who is known as David Beckham’s unsmiling and curvy wife. And this is an important reminder in life that we should look behind things, even if we don’t like what we find.

How we should not rush to judge, that there is an explanation, even if it does not change an opinion. How if we like or dislike someone let’s know a little more deeply why, even if our opinion of them remains the same. Not sure if I like Beckam anymore, but at least now I know the whole story. Because that’s who we are at the end of the day, as Joan Didion says “the stories we tell ourselves to live.”