David Beckham has received many honours in his illustrious career but arguably none is greater than being chosen as the castaway for the 75th anniversary edition of Desert Island Discs.
Previous anniversary guests have included John Gielgud (20th, in 1962), Paul McCartney (40th, in 1982), then prime minister John Major (50th, in 1992), and David Attenborough (70th, in 2012), with Beckham taking his place alongside them on Sunday 29 January.
“I’m delighted to join Desert Island Discs for its 75th anniversary celebrations,” the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England footballer said. “Music has been a huge part of my — and my family’s — life, and it is a real pleasure to highlight that on such an iconic programme.”
Now 41, Beckham has been retired from the game for four years, but his fame has extended way beyond the boundaries of his sport, starting when he married Spice Girl Victoria Adams (aka Posh Spice) in 1999 – the same year that he was part of Manchester United’s historic treble-winning team (Uefa Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup).
He is now a charity campaigner on the global stage; the causes he has supported including Unicef, the Elton John Foundation and Malaria NO More UK. He was also a vice-president of England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
Commercial endorsements made him the highest-paid footballer in the world for the last few years of his career, but according to Forbes his earnings actually went up in the first year of his retirement – 2014 — when it said he earned $75m.
With his hugely successful fashion-designer wife and four children, he is a member of one of the most famous celebrity families in the world, with connections that go to the heart of sport, Hollywood and global politics. He was made an OBE in 2003 and no honours list comes round without intense speculation that he is about to be knighted. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Beckham won 19 major trophies in his 20-year career, won the League title in four different countries, and played 115 times for England, placing him third on the all-time list behind Peter Shilton and Wayne Rooney. He played in three World Cups – in 1998, 2002 and 2006 – and might have gone to the 2010 tournament if injury had not ruled him out.
Kirsty Young, presenter of Desert Island Discs, said: “Seventy five is a birthday worth celebrating and having David Beckham as my castaway seems like the perfect gift. His sporting legacy is of course extraordinary. And along with his charisma, cultural impact and humanitarian work, he is a modern man of many parts. He’ll be a fascinating guest to welcome on to my little interview island!”
Given that Gary Lineker was a castaway when he was still playing football for England (back in 1990, soon after the team’s heroic failure at Italia 90), it may be a surprise to some that it’s taken so long for Beckham to make an appearance.
Now we wait to see what his musical choices might be – but that there’ll be something by the Spice Girls is probably the surest bet of the year.
Desert Island Discs’ on-air celebrations will begin on Saturday 28 January with a special three-hour programme on BBC Radio 4 Extra featuring some of the wonderful voices from the archive and extracts from recently rediscovered episodes, which will also be restored to the show’s online back catalogue.
Sunday’s episode of Desert Island Discs will also pay homage to the occasion by re-introducing the sound of sea wash to the opening and closing of the programme for the first time since the 1960s.