Little fanfare as Beckham puts full stop on career

New phase of England great's life begins after he spends his final game sitting on PSG's bench

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 4:49am


For David Beckham the soccer player, this really was the very end. Now begins the rest of his already very famous life.

At a small, homely stadium on the Brittany coast of western France, with seagulls flying overhead and a world away from soccer's temples like Manchester United's Old Trafford where fans used to sing his name, Beckham officially became the sport's most famous new retiree.

I don't think there's anybody who has the potential to become the next brand Beckham
Simon Chadwick

A thigh injury made him unavailable for Paris Saint-Germain's final match of the season, so he sat this one out.

Hands buried in the pockets of his team tracksuit top, his usually immaculately coiffed hair toasting under a woolly hat, Beckham took his place on the PSG bench with zero fanfare. It is probably safe to say that many in the 16,336-strong crowd did not realise he was there at all and that they were party to a final little dollop of Beckham soccer history.

Lorient president Loic Fery marked the occasion by giving the England great one of his team's orange jerseys with Beckham's name on the back above the number seven and the word Kenavo, or "Goodbye" in Breton, the Celtic language of Brittany. Up in the stands, fans played bagpipes and lounged in the warm evening sun.

In the 81st minute, the match turned bizarre as referee Benoit Bastien sent off PSG keeper, Ronan Le Crom. Reserve keeper Le Crom was born in Lorient, and at 38, it is possible this was his last season.

So Ancelotti brought him on, a kind gesture, for the last 30 minutes. Shortly afterwards, Le Crom trudged off in tears.

PSG teammates consoled him with a group hug. Beckham patted him on the head.

"It's most likely the last match of his career," PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi said of Le Crom.

"The referee could have been a bit softer with him and shown a bit of compassion."

After Bastien blew the final whistle, Beckham sought out the referee to give him a piece of his mind. He made the "Are you crazy?" gesture, tapping a finger against his temple.

What was said remained between them because Beckham walked quickly past reporters without talking after the match. "I didn't play," was all he said, by way of explanation for his silence.

Then he disappeared up a flight of steps to PSG's waiting bus and fans shouting "Dav-eeeed!" And that was it.

All in all, it was a very low-key final footnote to one of the sport's most storied careers. One could not help but feel sorry for two Irish fans who travelled by boat, bus and train from Dublin in hopes of seeing Beckham bend it in just one last time.

Ciaran Donnelly, 22, and Aidan Mulvey, 21, hung their home-made banner marked "thanks for the memories Becks" on a fence by the stadium. Donnelly said Beckham had been his hero from childhood.

Although Beckham the player is finished, Beckham the brand, the fashion maven, the businessman, the sport ambassador - the list is long and varied - is not. The challenge now will be to adapt his brand, so that it and he continue to thrive without the limelight that playing the game brought.

"We might just never see the likes of David Beckham again," Simon Chadwick, an expert in sport business and marketing at Coventry University in England, said.

"I don't think there's anybody in the world right now who has the potential to become the next brand Beckham."