"He was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time, he was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment, his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part."' – Alex Ferguson speaking about Beckham's marriage in 2007.
Beckham was born at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, London, England. He is the son of Sandra Georgina (née West; b. 1949), a hairdresser, and David Edward Alan "Ted" Beckham (b. Edmonton, London, July–September 1948), a kitchen fitter, who married at the London Borough of Hackney in 1969. He has an older sister, Lynne Georgina, and a younger sister, Joanne Louise. He regularly played football in Ridgeway Park, Chingford, as a child, and attended Chase Lane Primary School and Chingford County High School. In a 2007 interview, Beckham said that, "At school whenever the teachers asked, 'What do you want to do when you're older?' I'd say, 'I want to be a footballer.' And they'd say, 'No, what do you really want to do, for a job?' But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do." Beckham's maternal grandfather was Jewish, and Beckham has referred to himself as "half Jewish" and wrote in his autobiography "I've probably had more contact with Judaism than with any other religion". In his book Both Feet on the Ground, he stated that growing up he attended church every week with his parents, because that was the only way he could play football for their team.
However, due to his friendship with Guy Ritchie, he has made two cameo appearances in Ritchie's films: as a projectionist in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (based on the 1964 MGM television series of the same name), and as Trigger in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a great deal of confidence in the club's young players. Beckham was part of a group of young talents Ferguson brought into United in the 1990s (known as "Fergie's Fledglings"), which included Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville. When experienced players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis left the club after the end of the 1994–95 season, his decision to let youth team players replace them instead of buying star players from other clubs (United had been linked with moves for players including Darren Anderton, Marc Overmars and Roberto Baggio, but no major signings were made that summer), drew a great deal of criticism. The criticism increased when United started the season with a 3–1 defeat at Aston Villa, with Beckham scoring United's only goal of the game; however, United would recover from this early season defeat and the young players performed well.
Having signed for Manchester United as a trainee on 8 July 1991, Beckham was part of a group of young players, including Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, who were coached by Eric Harrison, and helped the club win the FA Youth Cup in May 1992. Beckham scored Manchester United's second goal in the 30th minute of their 3–1 first-leg win of the final against Crystal Palace on 14 April 1992. In the second leg on 15 May, Beckham played a full 90-minutes of the fixture which ended 3–2 in favour of Manchester United and 6–3 on aggregate. Beckham's impact led to a first-team debut on 23 September 1992, as a substitute for Andrei Kanchelskis in a League Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion. Shortly afterwards, Beckham signed as a professional on 23 January 1993.
Beckham's professional club career began with Manchester United, where he made his first-team debut in 1992 aged 17. With United, he won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. He then played four seasons with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga championship in his final season with the club. In July 2007 Beckham signed a five-year contract with Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy. While a Galaxy player, he spent two loan spells in Italy with Milan in 2009 and 2010. He was the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games.
Manchester United would again reach the final of the FA Youth Cup, where they would face Leeds United. The first leg was played on 10 May 1993, where Beckham started in Manchester United's 2–0 home loss but was replaced by substitute Robbie Savage. In the second leg on 13 May 1993, Beckham played the full 90 minutes of Manchester United's 2–1 defeat, which gave Leeds United a 4–1 aggregate score. Beckham would also receive honours with the club's reserve team, when the squad would win the league in 1994. In September 1994, Beckham went on to gain his first full appearance in the club's first team against Port Vale in a League Cup fixture. On 7 December 1994, Beckham made his UEFA Champions League debut, scoring a goal in a 4–0 victory at home to Galatasaray in the final game of the group stage. Despite the victory, however, they finished third out of four in their group, behind Barcelona.
Beckham then went to Preston North End on loan for part of the 1994–95 season to get some first team experience. He impressed, scoring two goals in five appearances, notably scoring directly from a corner kick.
In his early Manchester United career, Beckham lived in a four-bedroom house in Worsley that he bought directly from the property developer as a 20-year-old in 1995.
In 1997, Beckham started dating Victoria Adams, after she attended a Manchester United match. She was famously known as "Posh Spice" of the pop music group Spice Girls, one of the world's top pop groups at the time, and his team was also enjoying a great run of success. Therefore, their relationship instantly attracted a great deal of media attention. The couple were dubbed "Posh and Becks" by the media. He proposed to her on 24 January 1998 in a restaurant in Cheshunt, England.
David and Victoria Beckham have four children: sons Brooklyn Joseph (born 4 March 1999 in Westminster, London), Romeo James (born 1 September 2002 in Westminster, London), Cruz David (born 20 February 2005 in Madrid, Spain), and daughter Harper Seven (born 10 July 2011, in Los Angeles). Elton John is godfather to Brooklyn and Romeo Beckham; their godmother is Elizabeth Hurley. Beckham's three sons have all played football in the Arsenal Academy. Like their father, Brooklyn and Romeo have both done modelling work and been named among GQ's best dressed British men. Brooklyn previously played football for Arsenal U16, but was released at the end of the 2014–15 season.
On 15 November 2000, following Kevin Keegan's resignation as England manager in October, Beckham was promoted to team captain by the caretaker manager Peter Taylor, and then kept the role under new manager Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Beckham played a major role in helping England qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, starring in an impressive 5–1 victory over Germany in Munich. The final step in Beckham's conversion from villain to national hero happened in England's final qualifying game against Greece on 6 October 2001. England needed to win or draw the match to qualify outright for the World Cup, but were losing 2–1 with little time remaining. When Teddy Sheringham was fouled eight yards outside the Greek penalty area, England were awarded a free-kick and Beckham ensured England's qualification with a curling strike of the kind that had become his trademark. Beckham was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2001, and finished runner-up, to Luís Figo of Portugal, for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Beckham never personally appeared in the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, except in archive footage. He and his wife wanted to make cameo appearances, but scheduling proved difficult, so the Director used lookalike Andy Harmer instead.
Beckham's many endorsement deals make him one of the most recognisable athletes throughout the world. Having worn Adidas football boots from the start of his career (notably Adidas Predator), in 2003 he signed a $160 million lifetime contract with Adidas, earning nearly half the money upfront, and will continue to earn percentages of profits on all of his branded Adidas products. He had a 10-year collaboration with Pepsi Co. that expired in 2009. He has also promoted The Walt Disney Company theme parks.
In April 2004, the British tabloid News of the World carried claims by Beckham's former personal assistant Rebecca Loos that he and Loos had an extramarital affair. A week later, the Malaysian-born Australian model Sarah Marbeck claimed that she had slept with Beckham on two occasions. Beckham dismissed both accusations as "ludicrous".
Beckham has supported UNICEF since his days at Manchester United and in January 2005, the English national team captain became a Goodwill Ambassador with a special focus on UNICEF's Sports for Development program. In 2012, he met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street to call for more action to help children affected by malnutrition around the world. In 2015, his tenth year as a UNICEF Ambassador, Beckham launched 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund to help protect children in danger. In June 2015 he visited Siem Reap in Cambodia, where he met with child victims of violence. Beckham has pledged his support for the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign. He is also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 2013, he also donated all his £3.4 million salary taken from Paris Saint-Germain to two children's charities in France. Beckham has been supporting the charity named Help For Heroes for many years whose aim is to help Soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghan wars.
Beckham captained England 59 times, the fourth highest after Bobby Moore and Billy Wright both with 90, and Bryan Robson with 65. With his free kick goal against Ecuador in the second round of the 2006 World Cup, Beckham gained membership into two of football's exclusive clubs: he became the only English player – and the 21st player in the world – to score in three World Cups; Real Madrid teammate Raúl also achieved this feat a few days earlier. It also made him only the fifth player in World Cup history to score twice from a direct free kick; the other four were Pelé, Roberto Rivelino, Teófilo Cubillas, and Bernard Genghini (Beckham had previously scored this way against Colombia in the first round of the 1998 World Cup). All three goals were against South American teams (Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador) and from set pieces (the two aforementioned free kicks and a penalty against Argentina).
Since joining Major League Soccer, Beckham has been a very public advocate in the U.S. for related charities such as "MLS W.O.R.K.S." On 17 August 2007, he conducted a youth clinic in Harlem, along with other current and former MLS players. This was in advance of his first New York City area match the following day against the New York Red Bulls. That team's Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Ángel were also with Beckham, teaching skills to disadvantaged youth to benefit FC Harlem Lions.
At the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beckham, Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis represented Britain during the handover segment for the 2012 Games to be held in London. Beckham rode a London double-decker bus into the stadium and Page and Lewis performed "Whole Lotta Love". Beckham visited Afghanistan in May 2010 for a morale-boosting visit to British troops fighting the Taliban insurgency. The appearance of Beckham as well as British Foreign Secretary william Hague and Defence Secretary Liam Fox was believed to have prompted a Taliban attack on Kandahar airfield.
Beckham makes a cameo appearance with Zinedine Zidane and Raúl, in the 2005 film Goal!. Harmer also doubled for him in the party scene. Beckham himself appears in the sequel Goal II: Living the Dream in a larger role, when the film's lead character gets transferred to Real Madrid. This time, the story centres on the Real Madrid team, and besides Beckham, other real life Real Madrid players also appear on and off the pitch, alongside the fictional characters. Though the use of stock footage from the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Beckham appeared in Goal III: Taking on the World, which was released straight to DVD on 15 June 2009. Despite moving to Los Angeles, California, Beckham has expressed no personal interest in pursuit of acting roles, saying he is too "stiff".
In September 2010, Beckham announced that he was making a court application against prostitute Irma Nici and several others over claims in the magazine In Touch that he had sex with her. Although the magazine later accepted that the allegations against Beckham were untrue, his court application was dismissed under US freedom of speech laws.
Following the 2011 season, in which the Galaxy won their second consecutive Supporters' Shield, having the second most points in MLS history, Beckham's five-year contract with the Galaxy expired on 31 December 2011. Despite being 36, he stated that he did not intend to retire. Beckham was heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain, but on 18 January 2012, Galaxy announced Beckham had signed a new two-year contract to remain in Los Angeles. In May 2012, Beckham and his victorious teammates were received by President of the United States Barack Obama at the White House.
Beckham was named in the provisional squad to represent the Great Britain Olympic football team at the 2012 Olympics. He was not included in the final selection by manager Stuart Pearce.
From 14 July 2013, Beckham started appearing in adverts for BSkyB advertising their Sky Sports coverage via the Sky Go app. In January 2014, Beckham appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC in the U.S, and in March he made a guest appearance in the BBC's Sport Relief special of Only Fools and Horses. He was named one of GQ's 50 best dressed British men in 2015.
On 5 February 2014, MLS announced that Beckham had exercised his option to buy a MLS expansion team for $25 million, which he had received as part of the contract he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007. The ownership group, led by Beckham, originally hoped the Miami-based team would begin play in 2016 or 2017. After delays getting a stadium deal completed, MLS announced in January 2018 that the team had been approved and would likely begin play in 2020.
As of 2016, Beckham had more than 40 tattoos. There are names of his sons Romeo, Cruz and Brooklyn, and of his wife Victoria. His wife's name, tattooed on his left forearm, is in Sanskrit script because Beckham thought it would be "tacky" to have it in English. Unfortunately, this was misspelt as the equivalent of "Vihctoria". In his autobiography David Beckham: My Side, he said that the idea of having tattoos came to him in 1999 after his son Brooklyn was born, following a conversation on the subject of tattoos with Mel B and her then-husband, Jimmy Gulzar. Beckham said: "I ended up going to this Dutch guy who'd done all of Jimmy's. I'd finally realised what I wanted a tattoo to represent. Mine are all about the people in my life, my wife and sons, who I want with me always. When you see me, you see the tattoos. You see an expression of how I feel about Victoria and the boys. They're part of me."