It just happened to be last night that I discovered Bet365 run free live streaming of sport, and it just happens that I have a login for Bet365 even though I never bet on sport (I used Bet365 to put a tenner on Klaxons to win the Mercury Music Prize in 2007 and won £70, thankyou very much). So whilst I was polishing a script, I also had a window open with Milan vs Chievo running in it.
The commentary was limited – the Italian pictures were accompanied by what seemed to be some bloke employed by Bet365 to sit there on his own, with no pundit or contact with the action. At one point Chievo had the ball in the net and the commentator had to rely on the scorer’s body language and the fact that the top-left scorebox continued to read 0-0 to realise that it had been ruled out for offside, as the pictures failed to show the referee or linesman to confirm. (It did occur to me that Bet365 might make things more entertaining by getting punters with a stake on the match to commentate. ‘SCORE YOU FACKING USELESS SHOWER OF TWATS, I’VE GOT A MONKEY RIDING ON THIS’ – that sort of thing.)
As a result, when I spotted Beckham pull up in the latter stages it was hard to tell how severe the injury was. One of the times when ex-pro pundits make themselves most useful in the commentary box is when an injury needs to be interpreted: they can often tell the difference between a player who’s coming off as a precaution and one who’s properly knacked something. Our Bet365 commentator was left at a loss as the cameras focused on the match’s tense finale (check Seedorf’s superb winner below, which will likely be seen as a defining moment in Milan’s season should they win the title).
But as the coverage flashed to Beckham’s tearful face as he was loaded onto a stretcher, it became obvious what was happening. With a ruptured achilles tendon it may be difficult for him to come back at all, never mind in time for the World Cup. In that light, he’s almost certainly played his last game for his country – and his rationale for going on loan to Milan was to keep the level of his game high for England, so it’s possible he’s played his last game of top-flight European football too.
It seems a terrible anti-climax for him to go out this way, to an injury picked up under no challenge. But what it does demonstrate is the pressure Beckham put himself under to keep his game up. I was only half-watching the match, and admittedly I was more likely to notice what Beckham was doing than any other player because English commentators on Beckham’s overseas club matches tend to go ‘Oooh BECKHAM’s on the ball’ as soon as it comes to him. But he did work very hard to help break down a Chievo defence which was happy to play on the counter and often had six or seven men in the box. He’d done a lot of running and, as a golden chance to close the gap on Inter seemed to be slipping away, possibly worked that bit too hard for his age.
It’s typical of how Beckham has played ever since his early twenties. One day people will look back at the honesty and commitment of his game and wonder why he got the piss taken out of him so much.