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David Beckham

1998 World Cup Fiasco

Beckham's 1998 World Cup experience became a turning point in his career. In the match against Columbia Beckham scored a spectacular game-winning free kick. However, he went from national hero to national villain in a heartbeat when, in the next match against Argentina, he was given a red card (which means expulsion from the game) for kicking Argentina's Diego Simeone just minutes into the second half with the score tied 2-2. Argentina went on to win on penalty kicks, eliminating England in the second round. Simeone had flattened Beckham from behind and, in response, Beckham flung his leg out, grazing Simeone who fell dramatically hard. Simeone's infraction merited a yellow card (a warning), but Beckham, given the first red card of his career, was booted from the match.

In the aftermath of England's loss, Beckham was vilified. The Daily Mirror's headline read "10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy," and the Daily Star's banner read "What an Idiot." Beckham was hung in effigy outside a London pub, and a Baptist church message board read "God Forgives Even David Beckham." He received death threats and was continually booed the following season each time he touched the ball. Beckham was not immune to the constant criticism, and publicly apologized, saying, according to Sports Illustrated, "I will always regret my actions. I want every fan to know how deeply sorry I am."

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