In among all the sensation, speculation and rumour, a very basic element is at the centre of Brand Beckham. The footballer may have irreversibly blurred the line between sport and celebrity – as instantly recognisable off the pitch as he is on it – but there is an underlying humility that belies his superstar status.
Within 10 minutes of meeting his father, I realise where the trait stems from. David’s dad Ted is as easy to approach as his son is to market to the world.
There is no unexplained detachment as we meet at his Easter Football Camp at the Jebel Ali International Centre of Excellence, no air of superiority surrounding the man who stoked his lad’s passion for the sport, which he would effectively take by storm.
And, despite what many tabloids back in his homeland would have you believe, their relationship is as strong as ever.
“All parents are proud of what their kids do and I’m no different,” he says cooling off after hours of training in the morning sun.
“No matter what David’s got, no matter how much money he’s earning, what clothes he has or what car he’s buying, there’s not too many people in the world who have done what he’s done.”
Rumour had it that, until recently, the pair were only on speaking terms at best. Reasons cited included Ted’s divorce from wife Sandra in 2002, his alleged dislike for the other Mrs Beckham and his now infamous book detailing his own take on Becks’ career.
But the affable and amiable Ted paints a very different picture.
“I can ring David anytime I want. We’ve got a good father/son relationship,” he says. “I don’t deny we’ve had our ups and downs like anybody would, but deep down it’s a very strong bond. I’m so proud of him.
“And when a big game comes up it’s great. I only text him, though, I never speak to him before a match. I say ‘go out, enjoy yourself; you’ve nothing to prove. You know what I want’. That’s all I put. And he just says ‘OK dad, I’ll try’.”
That message changed slightly in France last month. David joined an elite band of English footballers – making the four a quintet – when he made his 100th appearance for the national team.
“I won’t tell you what it said, but I sent him a little thing, a special message that is just between me and him and goes back years ago to when it all started. And it’s brilliant to be able to do that.
“There’s only a handful of players who have got 100 caps for England and it was just amazing to see him do that. I must admit I got a bit choked up when I saw him on the pitch [at the Stade de France].
“It’s very strange for me that my son, who started off playing as a seven-year-old, has managed to play for his country that many times, something only a select few can claim to have done. And I honestly think he can get a few more.”
Becks’ remarkable feat has placed him alongside England legends such as Bobby Moore (“one of the best centre-halves I’ve ever seen”) and Bobby Charlton (“my hero”), something that clearly fills the kitchen-fitter from Chingford with pride.
A Manchester United fanatic himself, it was his enthusiasm for the club that bonded the pair early on as father helped hone his son’s supreme footballing talents.
“In the early years I was quite hard on him but David responded in ways I couldn’t imagine,” he says. “He loved football. He ate, slept and drank football. No matter what time I’d come home from work, no matter how late it was, he’d say ‘come down to the park, dad’ or ‘come out and play in the garden’.
“And I just responded as any good dad would. I helped him and pushed him into what he wanted to do. I used to play football on a Sunday and he’d want to come and play on the other pitch, then in the afternoons we’d go the park and have a kickaround.
“I could see little things in him that showed he could be a good player, yet at that age you can’t tell if they’d make it or not. It’s just impossible to know that. But if you’ve got the right tools to work with you’ll do a good job. And I had the best possible person to work with in David, who really wanted to learn. So in that respect it was a pleasure to teach him.”
Ted’s delight in his son’s dedication to success is evident. As he talks openly and honestly about the most famous footballer on the planet, there is no hint of a rift in their relationship, no regretful recount of happier times left behind in the past.
“I never thought it’d be like this in a million years. The only way I can describe it is an absolutely brilliant adventure and it’s something that I wish I could to do all over again. It’s been so exciting, we’ve had low parts, but the good far outweigh those.
“And I’ve appreciated every minute of it. I’m not one of these people who say ‘oh yeah, that’s my son’. I’m not like that at all. I’ve collected somewhere in the region of 800 to 900 videos of David’s career. I get them out and watch them, look back at all the brilliant memories he’s given me.”
And when it comes to all the rumour and speculation? Ted’s paternal instincts kick in.
“I’ve heard so many weird, ridiculous and stupid things that I don’t take any notice whatsoever,” he says defiantly. “Nobody knows him, nobody knows what he’s really like; that he and Victoria do a lot of charity work, for example.
“He’s got three great boys and a great wife who encourages him and that’s all you can ask for your son. People try to knock him – he’s been kicked many times – but he’s still up there. And that’s purely down to David.
“People think he’s a softie and that he talks funny but he’s got a very strong personality. And that’s what I’m most proud of: the way he reacts to things.”
You sense that the strong personality that his father helped mould will be needed again in the future, as Brand Beckham continues to go into overdrive. The LA Galaxy star was voted as the highest paid footballer in the world by France Football magazine this week amid rumours of the midfielder not enjoying life in America. However, he knows that if he needs some special encouragement, dad is only a phone call away.
Brand Beckham in Dubai
Ted Beckham admits his son could be tempted into setting up a football academy in the emirate at some point in the future, to sit alongside his projects in London, Los Angeles and Brazil. “It’d be nice to have a fair-sized academy over here but that’s something we’d have to wait and see.
“I don’t know because at the end of the day it’s down to David,” he says. “He came over to Dubai for a week with England before the 2006 World Cup so he’s seen what the place is like.
“I’d just tell him what there is to offer over here which, fortunately, is a hell of a lot, but it’s his choice.
“He’s back in America again so, if he was to do something, he’d have to do it in mid-season when the football’s not on. He likes to go to his soccer schools, he’s always travelling to the one next to the Millennium Dome in London.
“I think if he opened one here in Dubai that would be brilliant – I think he’d be silly not to – but, again, it’s his choice entirely.”
Ted has been to see the soccer school in the heart of London and is amazed at how well the academy looks. “It is nice to go there and see the kids training and how well they enjoy it. The facilities they have there are the best around.
“Could you imagine two full-size indoor pitches, together with dieticians who teach the kids to eat properly? It’s just absolutely amazing.
“David gets a buzz when he goes there and so do I. When I walk in and see what he’s got and what he’s done, I’m so proud.”
And does the superstar have a hand in how the school is run? “There are other people involved in it but he’s had meeting after meeting to try to sort out the best for his academy. He’s obviously been advised but most of the things are what he wants.
“David’s got great coaches working in it and he wants boys and girls of all ages to come along and be a part of it. Everything is geared for success there.”
David’s top three moments
1 The European Cup Final in 1999 when Manchester United came from behind to break Bayern Munich hearts. Beckham set up their two late goals.
2 Scoring the last-minute free-kick for England against Greece at Old Trafford to send his country to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and S.Korea.
3 Winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2001, voted by sports fans. Beckham beat fellow footballer Michael Owen to the award.
Father Ted confesses all about 'Brand Beckham'