Beckham stands down as captain

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The Independent Online

David Beckham announced today that he was standing down as England captain following the team's World Cup exit.

Beckham choked back tears as he delivered an emotional statement at a press conference at England's training headquarters near Baden-Baden in Germany.

He said he had "lived the dream" but with a new manager taking over it was time for a new captain.

Beckham was given a round of applause by journalists as he left the press conference without taking questions.

Beckham said he wanted to continue playing for England, though not as captain.

Before delivering his statement he asked for understanding because he had written the words late last night after England went out on penalties to Portugal.

He then unfolded what appeared to be two pieces of perforated paper ripped from a pad.

Speaking in a faltering voice, the 31-year-old said it had been the "greatest honour of his career" to captain his country and offered his support to the new England manager Steve McClaren and the new captain who has yet to be announced.

Beckham revealed that he had made the decision to stand down some time ago but had hoped to announce it under different circumstances.

"I hoped to make it on the back of a successful World Cup. Sadly, that wasn't to be," he said.

"This decision has been the most difficult of my career to date but after discussing it with my family and those close to me I feel the time is right."

Beckham struggled to maintain his composure as he described the reaction of the

team to losing.

He said the players were "hurt more than people realise" and thanked England fans for their support.

"They have been great both to me and my team-mates and I want them to know, for me, it has been an absolute honour," he said.

"I have lived the dream. I am extremely proud to have worn the armband and been captain of England and for that I will always be grateful."

John Hemmingham, head of the England Supporters' Band, told Sky News that

Beckham had been an "absolute Colossus" for the national team.

It had been a privilege to watch every game he had played captain, he said, picking the World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford in 2001 as the epitome of his performances.

"He absolutely performed out of his skin, won the game on his own and stepped up to the mark with that free kick in the 89th minute, showing the true worth of the man as a captain," he said.

"The other thing which is very noticeable with David Beckham is that his fellow professionals show so much respect for him," he added.

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