'Hang your head in shame': David Beckham's billion-dollar dream has made him a Qatari 'trained seal'

‘Hang your head in shame’: David Beckham’s billion-dollar dream has made him a Qatari ‘trained seal’

David Beckham remains one of England’s biggest names, some 13 years since he last donned the national shirt.

He’s been the highest-paid player in the sport, even his kids are national celebrities, and he’s spent the years since retirement scrambling around the world doing whatever he likes, including buying an MLS club. You can tell he has some cash.

So what on earth is he doing in Qatar?

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The 47-year-old is one of the faces of the World Cup, working as an ambassador for the Arab nation in one of the many ways he is trying to use the tournament as a means of rebranding the country.

Look how beautiful all these stadiums are! No, don’t worry about the $300 billion we had to spend on infrastructure to make it realistic to host things in the middle of the desert. And don’t worry about the bidding process that led to us getting it. And the necessary shift from summer to winter that will disrupt leagues around the world. And certainly don’t worry about the thousands of dead migrant workers and the terrible conditions many have endured.

It’s sporting experience at its best – and no, we’re not saying every country is perfect, but that’s a straw man. And let us not let perfection be the enemy of goodness; Undoubtedly, terrible things happened to ensure that this football tournament took place.

Beckham has been part of Qatar’s concurrent tourism campaign for several months now, trying to convince the world that this slice of the Arabian Peninsula is worth visiting for its pure, manufactured luxury – unlike neighboring countries that are trying to make exactly the same argument.

In one ad, he tours the spice market in Doha, proclaiming “modern and traditional fusion to create something truly special”.

It’s rather strange for Beckham to be doing all this work for the World Cup and its host country considering his family fortune is estimated at $748 million.

Well, there are two costs per job. Financial and reputational.

The first is what Beckham seems to be most interested in. Some estimates say he will earn $264 million over 10 years to become the face of Qatar tourism; a nifty chunk of change, no doubt.

But is boosting their brand worth the damage it has done to Beckham’s?

David Beckham appeared at last year’s Qatar F1 Grand Prix in his role for the nation. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Like many top athletes, Beckham spent much of his playing and post-playing career doing charity work. He has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2005 and has been running his own charity fund for almost eight years.

He has been described as a “gay icon”, not only for their admiration for the man himself, but also for his support of the LGBTQI+ community. He won awards for his support in Britain and was praised for speaking out for the normalization of gays in sport and allowing players to come out.

But Beckham’s Qatar deal stands in stark contrast to all that, working for a nation where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by prison – or even the death penalty if you’re Muslim, due to Islamic Sharia law.

“David Beckham continues to keep his money as far as possible when it comes to the LGBTQ community,” wrote Attitude magazine earlier this year.

Recently, British comedian Joe Lycett said he would fork over £10,000 ($17,500) if Beckham did not withdraw from the partnership.

“You were the first premiership footballer to shoot with gay magazines like Attitude, talk openly about your gay fans, and marry a Spice Girl, which is the biggest gay thing a human being can do,” he said.

Other celebrities have spoken out against Qatar, such as musician Dua Lipa, who denied being a surprise at the World Cup opening ceremony.

“I will not be performing, nor have I ever been involved in any negotiations to perform,” she wrote.

“I’ll be rooting for England from afar and I’m looking forward to visiting Qatar when they fulfill all the human rights promises they made when they won the right to host the World Cup.”

British political journalist Andrew Pierce said on Good Morning Britain: “As for David Beckham, he should hang his head in shame. He’s a gay icon, hugely popular around the world, and he’s doing it for one reason: millions in the bank.”

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Matt Lawton of The Times, who pointed out that Beckham was part of Britain’s World Cup bid team that lost to Russia at the 2018 tournament on the same day the 2022 tournament was awarded to Qatar, said: “There is no doubt that the 47-year-old’s image is tarnished”.

He wrote that Beckham “performed like a trained seal”.

But at the end of the day, it’s about money, Lawton explained.

“It’s clear that money is important to him,” he wrote.

“Some believe he is driven by a desire to more than double that figure (net worth £425m, or AU$748m) and become the first billionaire footballer.”

Because if we know anything that makes people happy, it’s money.

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