Eriksson calls for end to furore after Beckham issues apology

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The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, yesterday backed David Beckham's attempts to draw a line under the furore surrounding his yellow card against Wales by issuing a statement in which he effectively apologised for his honesty.

The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, yesterday backed David Beckham's attempts to draw a line under the furore surrounding his yellow card against Wales by issuing a statement in which he effectively apologised for his honesty.

Speaking after England's 1-0 win in the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku, Eriksson said that there was "no way" he had ever considered dispensing with Beckham as captain and that he appreciated his apology, adding: "Let's finish it here, forever."

Beckham has admitted that he made a challenge on Ben Thatcher, of Wales, to earn a booking and a one-match suspension. He did so, he said, because he knew that a rib injury sustained during last Saturday's game would mean him missing the match in Azerbaijan anyway.

Yesterday, after he had been been roundly criticised for his actions, including by Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football's world governing body, Beckham, who is now back in Madrid, sought to restore his reputation. His statement said: "In an interview I was asked a question and made a frank and honest admission to counter the negative speculation. I now know that was wrong and apologise to the Football Association, the England manager, my team-mates and all England fans for this. I have also apologised personally to my manager [Sven Goran Eriksson]."

Blatter had called for the FA to take "adequate measures" to deal with Beckham, sparking speculation that he expected the FA to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute.

Yesterday's statement has decreased the chances of that by giving the FA a simple opportunity to point to Beckham's penitence. Indeed, the FA chairman, Geoff Thompson, immediately provided a vote of confidence. Asked whether Beckham could continue as captain, Thompson said: "Of course. The captain has possibly made an error of judgement, but he has apologised for it."

Blatter conceded that the apology "makes a difference" to how the FA will treat Beckham, but hinted that as far as he is concerned Beckham is on probation, not in the clear. "It [the apology] will give to those who judge such an action some positive circumstances, but you cannot just forget what has happened," he said.

Fifa has no intention of taking any independent action against Beckham, leaving the ball firmly in the FA's court. It would be extraordinary if the FA took action against Beckham, not least because senior FA figures were instrumental in encouraging yesterday's statement.

When Beckham admitted deliberately courting a yellow card, he stressed that he did "have the brains" to realise, in the heat of a match, that he might as well serve a suspension while injured and had therefore clinically acquired his second booking of the campaign to facilitate the suspension and wipe his state clean.

The statement could be interpreted as the final twist in the tale, but nowhere does it actually apologise directly for deliberately being booked. The wording is actually an apology for a "frank and honest admission", not for the action that caused the admission. It would have been much simpler to say: "I'm sorry for deliberately getting booked, which I now know is wrong."

No matter. He has proffered an apology, which has been interpreted fortunately. He should now be able to recuperate in peace from his rib fracture, which is likely to take four weeks.

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