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Balls, Body, Bodyart - Beckham Has a Defining Quality Beyond All That...

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Days after Beckham's ambassadorial arrival on British soil from Greece with the Olympic flame he announced that he felt his future was less likely to be in management but in coaching children. That the Olympics should be held in the East End where he was born, and grew up, marks a defining moment in not just the life of the nation but also provides an extraordinary metaphor for his life as well.

Like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, time and time again Beckham has proved he has the capacity to bounce back from difficulties, criticism and scandal without bitterness but with genuine good grace. It is little surprise that, by the tattooed angel on his right shoulder, the text should read "in the face of adversity." And it is imparting this attitude, as much as the football skill, which can be a force for good especially if, as he has suggested, he may devote his time to developing young players.

Throughout his extraordinary career Beckham has been the victim of national hate campaigns not least for being the only player to be sent off twice in a World Cup Campaign; he's been engulfed in scandal with speculation about his private life and, as with all those who live under the spotlight, he's rich fodder for public taunts. But his dedication and tenacity has never been called into question even when, in 2010 and due to injury, he remained a bolstering bystander on the sideline for what would have been his last World Cup.

Forget the goals from the screaming free kicks, the blasting penalities and the swerving corners, forget the gilded lifestyle, and the bodywear adverts, the sarong, haircuts and aftershaves, it is the fundamental core of his character that remains impressive. When goalkeeper Rob Green blundered during the World Cup in South Africa it was no surprise that FIFA commentator, John Helm, said "they'd probably let David Beckham speak to him at half time." Helm later told me that he said that because "other players regard Beckham as an inspirational figure, someone they can trust and even those that don't consider him to be a great player acknowledge his influence and power to motivate, especially in adversity." That quality is, in part, innate but has also been nurtured as a by-product of his dedication to his craft.

When, in the previous World Cup in Germany Beckham resigned as captain and was dropped from the England squad he accepted the decision without rancour. With 94 caps under his belt and in an emotional speech he committed himself to doing all that he could to serve his country again and reach the coveted 100 caps. He did. Now with 115 caps he is the most capped outfield England player in history. And throughout, he has never forgotten where he came from or those who coached and supported him.

It is these role models that The Children's University welcomes. Formed five years ago the charity aims to promote social mobility by providing high quality, exciting and innovative learning activities and experiences outside normal school hours for children and engaging the wider communities as learning partners in the realisation of this. It aims particularly to reach out to children and young people, like those in the East End, who are facing socio-economic and educational disadvantage through the targeting of grants to, and the promotion of, activities in areas of deprivation.

It would be a shame if Beckham is denied the opportunity to lead his country as Captain of the Great Britain team in the Olympic Games for, in the spirit of an event of this calibre, and in his birthplace, a powerful message is relayed - one that carries way beyond the pitch - and that is to have faith in yourself and your ability and that it's not what happens to you but your attitude to it that matters.

If Beckham were to be awarded this honour then it would be a fitting culmination to a formidable footballing career. It would demonstrate that it's not always the winning - but the taking part - and, fundamentally, the hard work and dedication that, with a little help from some friends, can change your life.

Hilary Robinson is a Patron of The Children's University.

http://www.childrensuniversity.co.uk/

www.hilaryrobinson.co.uk

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