Teary Beckham gets grand send-off in last game
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With the Beatles playing in the background, a teary-eyed David Beckham received a grand farewell from his teammates, family and fans on Saturday as he played his last game with Paris club PSG before heading into retirement.
A clearly emotional Beckham was mobbed by his teammates on the field when coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to substitute him in the 81st minute of a 3-1 win over Brest on Saturday, giving him a customary sendoff in his last home game before retiring.
“To end my career in front of a crowd like that, with players like that, it’s very special,” Beckham said, adding that emotions had already started overpowering him before he was taken off.
“It started about 20 minutes before that, to be honest. I started thinking and then, you know, I couldn’t concentrate by then, and it was difficult,” he said. “You know, you try to hold the emotion back because it is what it is, but it’s difficult.”
A standing ovation
As the crowd rose to its feet - including former French president Nicolas Sarkozy - Beckham applauded in return as he walked off the pitch slowly before being replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi.
“I want to say thank you to everybody in Paris. To my teammates, to the staff, to the fans,” Beckham told the fans. “It’s been very special to finish my career here. It could not have been any more special.”
With PSG already having clinched the French league title, Beckham announced Thursday that he would be retiring at the end of the season. It is unlikely he will play in PSG’s last game away against Lorient on May 26.
"I just feel that it’s the right time. I feel that I’ve achieved everything that I could in my career. I wanted to go out as a champion," Beckham said. "I’ve finished my career in a team that has treated me like I’ve been here for 10 years."
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti joked that Beckham should have scored.
"I spoke with David and told him in my last game I scored two goals," Ancelotti said.
"I said to him ‘Maybe tonight you’ll score two goals’ - but maybe he didn’t have my quality."
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic again was PSG’s main figure on the field, scoring twice, this game was Beckham’s moment from the start.
'A historic moment'
He was given the captain’s armband for the first time since joining the team on the last day of the January transfer window, and was given a rousing reception at Parc des Princes before the game, with fans breaking out into chants of "Merci, David" (Thank You, David) when his name was read out over the stadium speaker.
Beckham said he felt humbled by being named captain.
“When the manager told me, it was really special. To be an Englishman as captain on a night which meant so much to the fans. It was an amazing gesture and I will always be thankful for it,” he told Sky Sports.
He showed he can still contribute on the field as well, setting up midfielder Blaise Matuidi for a 2-0 lead with a well-taken corner in the 31st minute.
And when it was time to leave the pitch, chants of "Dav-eed Beckham, Dav-eed Beckham" broke out among the French fans as the PSG players trotted over to embrace him.
"It’s a historic moment," the stadium announcer intoned as Beckham was substituted.
The Beatles as grand finale
As Beckham walked slowly off with his hair uncharacteristically bedraggled, his mother, Sandra, also wiped away her tears in the stands.
Beckham said he had invited 25 people - including his parents, sister and wife Victoria - to watch him: "friends, family, everyone that’s been with me throughout my career."
"After 22 years of playing football, I’m going to take a few months to enjoy time with my family," Beckham said, before adding that he still wants to stay involved with PSG. "It’s been a very special place for me."
After the final whistle, his teammates hoisted Beckham off the ground and repeatedly tossed him up in the air, putting a smile back on his face.
The league title celebrations then kicked in as the lights were turned off, light sticks were held up and the crowd broke into song. Fireworks then flew into the night sky - accompanied by an "Ole!" as each exploded.
One after the other, the players then walked out onto a makeshift podium and thanked the crowd.
When it came to Beckham’s turn to climb onto the podium, draped in an English flag and serenaded by the Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye”, a laser show accompanied a brief video highlights reel of his time with the club.
It concluded with the words: “Thank you David.”
"Merci, Paris," Beckham said. "I’m very sad to be leaving, but thank you."
(FRANCE 24 with wires)