Football: FA to tell Beckham to mend his ways

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The Independent Online
DAVID BECKHAM is to be warned by the Football Association that he needs to exercise more self-control on the pitch or risk damaging his career. The 24-year-old midfielder is not facing disciplinary charges but he will be invited to a private meeting with FA officials, where they will voice concerns over his conduct.

The FA's decision to act is understood to have been made after two incidents during Manchester United's Champions' League match against Sturm Graz last week. The first saw Beckham kick out at the opposition striker, Tomislav Kocijan. Although this happened in front of the fourth official, the United player escaped censure.

The second incident saw Beckham goaded by the Austrian team's Roman Mahlich after a challenge. The United player appeared to throw the ball in his opponent's face and received a yellow card, his fifth of the season, for his actions. The FA felt that the incidents, - one displaying temper, the other a lack of self-discipline in the face of provocation - are the type that the England international is becoming all too frequently involved in.

Beckham's temperament first became a major cause for concern during last year's World Cup finals, when he was sent off for kicking Argentina's Diego Simeone. England lost the match on penalties and Beckham returned from France to find himself the subject of widespread abuse from opposition fans. West Ham supporters set the tone at the start of last season by burning an effigy of him before a match and Beckham has since had to endure constant abuse aimed at both him and the Spice Girl Victoria Adams, whom he married earlier this year.

Although FA officials appreciate that the player has been especially subject to abuse, they are concerned that he is reacting to the pressure in the wrong way.

"David Beckham is in a minority, perhaps in a minority of one, in terms of the abuse he receives," an FA source said yesterday. "But he needs to be reminded of what is expected of him on the field."

As arguably the most famous footballer in the country, and as an ambassador for the sport, Beckham's every move is under scrutiny, something even those close to him are now realising. "Becks has done very well [to control himself] for two years," Roy Keane, the United captain, said of his team- mate last week. "But he's got to live with opponents trying to provoke him."

Beckham's first two yellow cards of the season came against Arsenal, the first in the Charity Shield and the second in the Premier League match at Highbury. In August, he escaped punishment for giving a two-fingered gesture to Leeds fans because it was deemed that he had suffered undue provocation. He picked up his third yellow card at Coventry, and a fourth at Liverpool, in a match where he appeared to tread on Jamie Redknapp and was later seen goading the Liverpool supporters. The booking in Austria was one too many for the FA.