Getting a statue should be the ultimate way to end any career. It’s hard to picture a more emphatic symbol of your impact than a huge sculpture of you at your most magnificent, surrounded by adoring fans. Sure, you will most likely deteriorate into a convenient toilet for pigeons, but until then, it’s tough to think of anything that could be more complimentary.
Unfortunately, as global football and fashion icon David Beckham is discovering, the tribute only works if it doesn’t look ridiculous. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy legend has found himself on the receiving end of a wave of ridicule this week, after his new statue in Los Angeles was unfavourably compared to the world’s sweariest chef. It is, by any measure, a far cry from the effect that everyone involved was hoping for.
Beckham’s statue, a first for any player to feature in Major League Soccer, was originally commissioned to honour the former England captain for being one of the first global superstars to ply his trade in America. Given his impact, it’s easy to understand why. Beckham turned the MLS from an international laughing stock, with a reputation as a lucrative retirement home for players well past their prime, into a respectable competition attracting talent from all over the world. It’s unlikely that the league could boast about the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic if it hadn’t been for Becks.
Given this backdrop, the unveiling ceremony should have been a scene of celebration. Held at Dignity Health Sports Park, the event featured further tributes from former team-mate Robbie Keane, NBA all star Kobe Bryant and Grammy nominated rapper Snoop Dogg. Speaking to the crowd, Beckham initially said the ceremony was “a dream come true”. Unfortunately, it was a matter of minutes before Twitter spoiled everything by comparing him to Gordon Ramsay.
Anyone familiar with international football will know that this is hardly the first instance of statuesque embarrassment. One of the most notorious sculptures in recent memory has to be the grotesque bust of Portuguese forward and arguably greatest player of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo, at Madeira airport. Another star who prides himself on being well-groomed, Ronaldo is doubtless horrified that the effigy that greets visitors to the island of his birth looks like someone transplanted Buzz Lightyear’s face onto Ray Winstone’s head.
However, despite the unintentional hilarity of bad football statues, it’s worth remembering that there is often something much bigger at play. Beckham’s for instance, was unveiled just a day after he opened a new soccer field for underprivileged youth in LA. Speaking at that ceremony, Beckham said, “Taking care of the next generation of soccer stars in this country is really important and we did it in a community that really needed support and a safe environment for children.” This, clearly is a much more important message. Even if it does now look like Gordon Ramsay is actually David Beckham’s dad.