David BeckhamGetty

'The reaction was brutal' - Beckham thankful social media was not around after 1998 World Cup red card

David Beckham has spoken about the importance of being open about your mental state after recalling the vilification he went through after the 1998 World Cup.

England were eliminated at the last-16 stage by Argentina, after Beckham was sent off for kicking out at Diego Simeone after being fouled by the now-Atletico Madrid manager.

Beckham turned from media darling to one of the most hated men in England. He received death threats, an image of a Beckham effigy hanging outside a pub found infamy, while the Mirror’s headline of ’10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy’ was followed by a David Beckham dartboard.

Article continues below

Then at Manchester United, Beckham recovered his reputation to once again become one of the world’s most popular sports stars, but looking back, he is grateful social media hadn’t yet been invented to amplify the experience.

“I made a mistake in ‘98 and the reaction at the time was pretty brutal,” Beckham said as part of the ‘Mentally Healthy Football’ declaration from the Heads Up campaign.

“If social media was around when I was going through that time, it would have been a whole different story, but I was lucky, I had a support system within Manchester United, the manager, and obviously family.

“Did I feel it was ok at the time to go to someone and say I need help? No, because it was a different era, and I just felt that I had to keep it all in and deal with it myself. Whereas now I’m the one preaching to my kids and to other kids that I talk to out there that it’s really important to talk.

“We all know now that it’s ok not to be ok, and it’s ok to say that. It’s ok to come out and say, ‘I need help’.”

David Beckham, England, 1998 World Cup vs Argentina, Red CardGetty

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti is also part of the Heads Up campaign, and he says he has seen welcome signs of change from players in recent years.

He said: “In my experience, it is really rare that players come to you and say, ‘Mentally I’m not good’.

“It’s changing in the past few years. I hope that this is going to [continue to] change because it is a really important aspect.

“It is really important for the relationship you are able to build with the players. It’s really important the club is able to build an environment where the players feel comfortable, safe and feel they can explain their thoughts without a problem.”