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Posted By Lah    September 29th, 2011    0

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What will David Beckham look like at 70? It’s hard to imagine anyone this handsome packing on 30 pounds, as elite athletes often do when their playing careers conclude, sagging around old-timer games and charity dinners in double chins and elastic waistbands. What could a couple decades do to that lustrous Beckham hair, which has provoked copycat manias of faux hawks and mohawks and meticulous crew cuts?

There’s some silver upstairs now—”Got my first gray a few years ago, and a couple more since we’ve had the little girl,” Beckham says, referring to his daughter, Harper, born in July, her name already commemorated with a cursive tattoo along Daddy’s collarbone. But does gray have a chance against him? If a thinning-haired Beckham were ever reduced to a bald-spot-covering combover, is there any doubt it would be the most stylish combover of all time?

Beckham is 36, and when he rises at his Los Angeles idyll with his pop-star-turned-serious-fashion-designer wife, Victoria, and their attractive brood of four, there are unfamiliar, nagging aches. “I definitely feel different than I did 10 years ago,” he says. In recent years he has endured knee trouble and a ruptured Achilles; not long ago, Beckham suffered a slight stress fracture of his spine. “It takes a while for the Achilles to warm up,” he admits. “Once I’ve had my coffee, I’m good.”

He smiles. It’s a humid afternoon, and the biggest soccer superstar of his generation is sitting in a windowless room in the basement of a New York City loft, dressed in slim gray jeans and a white T-shirt revealing the dark sleeves of tattoos on his forearms. There are the beginnings of wrinkles around his eyes and forehead, and his hair is parted neat and slicked to the left—Beckham as Don Draper.

The first time Beckham came to New York, he was 23 years old, a superstar for the planet’s most famous soccer club, Manchester United. “My wife [then-girlfriend] was playing at Madison Square Garden with the Spice Girls,” he says. The pair stayed at the Four Seasons and ordered Chinese takeout in a box, because that’s what Beckham thought people did when they came to New York City. He wandered around the city, largely unnoticed. He watched Victoria perform at the sold-out Garden, and at one point she pulled him aside and told him, “Oh, by the way, we’re pregnant.”

Now Beckham is in New York to play in the All-Star Game for Major League Soccer, the upstart outfit he joined in 2007 with wildly exaggerated rumors of a quarter-billion-dollar contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy and expectations he would glamorize an underappreciated sport in the United States. The early results were mixed—Beckham spent much of his early MLS career battling injuries and fending off speculation that he yearned to return full-time to Europe—but in its fifth year the experiment is getting a reappraisal, with seven new expansion clubs and nine new stadiums since Beckham arrived, and a splashy new television deal with NBC.

“There’s no doubt David’s signing was one of the key moments in the history of the MLS,” says league commissioner Don Garber. The Galaxy is one of the league’s top teams, Beckham is playing some of the best soccer of his U.S. career, and in a couple of nights, he and the MLS All-Stars will face off against mighty Manchester United, in town for a stateside exhibition.

It is an unexpected second wind. Beckham is still a name, still a significant global brand, one of the handful of seven-continent superstars in sport. The MLS’s Garber tells of hiking on a remote border of China and Myanmar during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and when he told his guide what he did for a living, the guide turned and asked, “How is Beckham doing?” Beckham is deep into his second decade as a spokesman for Adidas, with lines of sport and leisurewear; there’s a fragrance line with his wife (motto: “Intimately Beckham”) and, inspired by his entrepreneurial wife, he has branched out as a designer, with a deal with H&M for an upcoming line of formfitting “body wear.”

“I’m totally involved in everything that goes out there in stores,” Beckham says of his endorsements. “I don’t just sign with a company and give my name to do whatever they want. Everything that goes out there is something I would wear.”

Longevity is even harder to pull off in fashion than it is in sports, but Beckham has managed to stay relevant through his many career evolutions and relocations. Part of this durability can be attributed to his and Victoria’s willingness to ration out personal details of their lives, like in August, when Victoria tweeted out an intimate photo of David and baby Harper cuddling cheek to chest. But there’s also a certain fearlessness.

Sports icons tend to be timid about provocation, but Beckham has been unafraid about taking the occasional, playful risk—posing stripped down to his skivvies for Armani, rolling in the sheets with his wife for a fashion spread. It has helped him remain a step ahead, and just when you think the Beckham persona is starting to fade, there he is, stealing the scene in a top hat and tails at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Beckham is eager to be on the field for his national team when the Olympics hit London in 2012, a possibility that seemed farfetched a few years ago. “I don’t just want to be a coach or manager,” he says. “I want to play.”

A couple of weeks after our meeting in New York, Beckham phones from Los Angeles. For the past week and a half, London has raged with riots. “I think it’s disgusting what’s going on,” he says, his tone turning serious. “The problem is, there is a minority of youth today in England who are not scared of authority. If they steal something, they are not worried about the consequences. When I was a kid growing up I respected elders, I respected the law. If I was on a bus and an elderly lady got on, I would stand up and let her sit down. That doesn’t happen these days.

“We’ve got the Olympics next year and these pictures are being seen all around the world,” he says. “It makes me feel physically sick.”
Social commentary may not be what Beckham is most celebrated for, but listening to his pain, you can hear the maturation from athlete to celebrity supernova to a kind of worldly ambassador. Eventually his body will quit and there will be no soccer, the gray hairs may arrive in a hurry, the shirtless ads might begin to feel unbefitting, and a transformative athlete will try to remake himself once more. This is OK. David Beckham is getting older, but wiser, too.

Source | thx to Tony | Photoshoot

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