The power of David Beckham to captivate the world's media was once again harnessed by the England 2018 committee who unleashed him at the Fifa bidders' convention yesterday to rescue another event that looked like it might go pear-shaped.
Beckham strode into the Leeuwenhof Estate in Cape Town just in time: only minutes earlier the bidding nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments had screened their promotional films, and it would be fair to say England's will not be troubling the Cannes film festival judges.
Australia led the way with a slick, eye-catching and expensively-edited effort that featured the actress Nicole Kidman catching just the right tone as she sold the benefits of her native country. Spain and Portugal came close with an arty journey shot beautifully around the cities of Madrid, Lisbon and Barcelona.
In response, England's effort was entirely animated and had no footage of any of its footballers, cities or stadiums. One unkind comparison likened it to a budget version of South Park and certainly the static, plump figures waddling up an animated Wembley Way did remind one of Cartman and friends.
With humiliation looming, Beckham, who has been the star turn in Cape Town, arrived just in time. In order to keep the competition fair, the marquee had standard-size stalls which were the same for every bidding nation, making it look like a slightly upmarket careers' fair. Beckham made his way straight to the English stall and the rest of the room followed.
The Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber got a quick handshake as Beckham breezed past but he and the contingent from America were left looking on enviously.
Beckham has worked out that flattery on an epic scale is the order of the day where Fifa are concerned, hence his assertion yesterday that he was "star-struck" by meeting Michel Platini, the Uefa president and a key man in delivering England the European votes of the Fifa executive committee.
"Just to sit down and have a coffee with him [Platini] was special," Beckham said. "Everything has been so positive, it's just about keeping it going and not being arrogant. That's a big thing – just because we are England doesn't mean we are going to get the bid and get the World Cup in our country. We realise there is a lot of hard work to be done and we have to be prepared to do that. I've always said I would do everything I can to bring the World Cup to the country."
It has been the schedule of the MLS season that has allowed Beckham to be here and he far outshone Luis Figo on behalf of the Spain-Portugal bid and the mercenary Ronald de Boer who has signed up for Qatar. "I will be up against David and I am going to beat him for 2018," Figo said, light-heartedly. The former England captain had carried the day again, although you wonder how many times he will be able to bail out the 2018 bid.Reuse content