The former Manchester United and Real Madrid footballer is one of the sport’s biggest-ever stars and is considered a national treasure to many.
In 1998, however, Beckham was subject to widespread criticism after he received a red card during England’s World Cup match against Argentina.
Beckham’s exit from the pitch was considered a major reason for the team losing the game and getting eliminated from the tournament. The footballer was met with a huge amount of public disdain, which included an effigy of him being hung outside a pub.
The incident is covered in the athlete’s forthcoming Netflix documentary, Beckham, and includes his wife Victoria Beckham stating her belief that David was suffering from depression as a result of the public reaction.
In a new interview with The Telegraph, Beckham agreed that he was depressed at the time, explaining that he did not feel as though he could acknowledge his mental health struggles openly.
“It’s something I would never admit, because I was brought up by a dad who, if I said, ‘Dad, I’m feeling a bit low today,’ he’d have said, ‘Boy, get on with it,’” he said. “But I was [depressed]. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. I was living day to day thinking about what was coming next. People were saying I should leave the country. It was tough.”
Beckham went on to say that he didn’t seek therapy at the time – and hasn’t sought it out in the years that followed – mostly due to his East End upbringing.
“People have mentioned it, and I think therapy is a good idea – in this day and age you hear more about sports stars going to have therapy, and how much it helps.
“But I was brought up in the East End of London. If I’d said to my dad, ‘I need therapy’, he’d have said, ‘What for?!’ So I put my head down and worked harder.”
Beckham has been an advocate for mental health for many years. He first spoke out about his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that causes a person to have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours, in 2006.
He speaks candidly about the condition in his documentary. In one scene, Beckham explains that he will spend hours tidying after his family go to bed.
“I clean it so well, I’m not sure it’s actually appreciated so much by my wife, in all honesty,” he says.
“The fact that when everyone’s in bed I then go around, clean the candles, turn the lights on to the right setting, make sure everywhere is tidy. I hate coming down in the morning and there’s cups and plates and, you know, bowls.”
Beckham will be available on Netflix from Wednesday 4 October.