Life

TV Review: Football is the sport of the world

David Beckham with children in Kumnga Village, Papua New Guinea after playing game of football in the mud and rain. Pic by Jackie Nickerson
Billy Foley

David Beckham: For The Love Of The Game, BBC 1, Tuesday at 9pm

Two of the world's most dominant past-times collided in this David Beckham odyssey - football and celebrity.

At times it was difficult to distinguish which was the more popular. Football is the world's favourite sport but the Beckham brand isn't simply an English affair and the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player is a star across the world.

He set out on a Unicef sponsored trip to play seven games on seven continents, on seven different surfaces, in 10 days.

It was never fully explained, but the point appears to have been to highlight the work of the children's charity which exploits the attention grabbing ability of celebrity like no other.

It was too long at 90 minutes and I was suspicious of Beckham's wish "to give something back" to a game that had given him so much.

But there is something about Beckham - whether it's the innocence (although this man is no fool), the Hollywood smile, the politeness or the never changing good humour; but you believe Beckham when he says he wants to help people.

Thus he played with the underprivileged and marginalised of the world; on the scrub of Papua New Guinea, on ancient cobblestones in the centre of Kathmandu, on Djibouti dirt, Buenos Aires concrete, Antarctic ice cap and Miami astro-turf.

His conversations, outside of the football talk, were a bit awkward and scripted but there was real warmth and understanding when he was told the stories of suffering children.

He even played under Alex Ferguson again, his old Manchester United boss when he was just out of childhood and who once took a lump out of his manicured eyebrow with a flying football boot.

Ferguson managed one of the sides at an Old Trafford charity game, Becks eight game of the odyssey.

Beckham truly believes in the "transformational" power of football and his trip demonstrated again how a game of the Victorians is loved around the world.

In Papua New Guinea the children played in the rainy season mud with a ball made from dried banana leaves, in a refugee camp in east African Djibouti there was a league of 14 teams named after Champions League regulars.

In the high Himalayas of Nepal, football continues despite a devastating earthquake.

There may be corruption on and off the field, but Beckham is right - football is the greatest game in the world.

***

Lego at Christmas, Channel 4, Tuesday at 7pm

Lego at Christmas is the worst kind of television.

It's PR dressed up as an insight into a commercial success and it's a revisited and updated rerun of an earlier programme.

Lego is on of those brands which trade on the nonsense that they are more than commercial entities and aim to make the world a better place. Ikea and Facebook also propagate the same guff.

In June we were brought behind the scenes at the Danish ‘Superbrand' in The Secret World of Lego

When I say ‘behind the scenes' I mean a carefully controlled corporate version of the company's view of itself.

Calling the programme ‘The Secret World of Lego' was a bit cheeky when the cameras were invited to tour the factory, speak to the staff, interview the top brass and metaphorically hug the head of PR.

Now Channel 4 has warmed up the leftovers and served them up to us at Christmas. How Festive.

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