David Beckham highlights soccer game in Papua New Guinea

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Beckham with local children in Kumnga Village in the Western Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea.

“The game in Papua New Guinea was in the rainforest and it was against the police force and a tribe they are usually in conflict with,” he recalled. “They came together to play this game of football and it proved the ability of football to bring people together.

The timing of Beckham’s ‘For The Love Of The Game’, to be shown on BBC on Tuesday night, has become even more relevant just 24 hours after Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the disgraced presidents of FIFA and UEFA, were each banned for eight years.

Beckham’s incredible journey was at the opposite end of the football spectrum to Blatter and Platini, away from the suits, the boardrooms, the politics and the backhanders.

In his role as a UNICEF ambassador, England’s most-capped outfield player played grass-roots games on seven continents in seven days to show the enduring global appeal of football, joining local communities from all walks of life who play the sport.

He played in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, the earthquake-ravaged foothills of Nepal, the desert of Djibouti, a Buenos Aires barrio, the frozen wastelands of Antarctica and the elevated pitches in Miami before ending his epic trip back where it all began for him at his spiritual home – at a rain-soaked Old Trafford.

“That [the FIFA scandal] was one of the reasons why we wanted to do the trip,” he said. “It is not about the negativity for me. I was part of that with the [England’s 2018] World Cup bid and with certain other situations.

“But I don’t like to talk about these things because there is too much talking going on. I just wanted to get on camera the love for the game, how it changes lives around the world.

“I knew it was going to be challenging, I knew it was going to be touch and go whether we got to each place. But I wanted to shine a light on certain situations around the world and also show the positive side of the game because it changes the lives of people, particularly children.”

Father-of-four Beckham, now 40, was both humbled and inspired by what he saw.

“The game in Papua New Guinea was in the rainforest and it was against the police force and a tribe they are usually in conflict with,” he recalled. “They came together to play this game of football and it proved the ability of football to bring people together.

“Then we went to Nepal where six months earlier an earthquake devastated many families. We played a game in the middle of ruined temples and homes but for the 40 minutes we played the children were running around as if nothing had happened.

“Six months ago they lost their homes, families, mums, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents – but for that time they were playing football they were smiling.

“Next stop was Djibouti, where we drove four hours into the middle of nowhere to a refugee camp with 15,000 people.

“Some of the kids were very talented. At the end of it, as I was getting back into the car, they were slipping notes in my pockets saying, ‘Please help us live our dream, we are talented footballers, just give us the opportunity’.

“In Buenos Aires we went into a village that is one of the roughest and toughest communities in the city. I played with the kids for about an hour and it was one of the most enjoyable games of the trip.

“I sat with the kids afterwards and I said, ‘What does football mean to you?’ In some of the other places they would answer it was an escape from what had happened in their lives over the last few years. But in Buenos Aires it was, quite literally, their life. It was simply a religion to them.”

The game in Antarctic was the only one Beckham feared wouldn’t happen because the weather was so bad they were advised landing a plane would be difficult.

“But we got the green light, had a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Chile on an old Russian military plane and set up the first official game of football there with a bunch of scientists who will be living and working there for the next three or four months.”

Miami, where Beckham will launch his MLS franchise, and, finally, a rain-soaked Old Trafford – in front of 75,000 fans – were far more familiar places. But everywhere he went Beckham received reminders that for all the scandals, the beautiful game is still just that.

Source: http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/628591/David-Beckham-seven-games-seven-continents-BBC-UNICEF

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