Celebrities helping struggling football teams under the guise of giving back (and, quite coincidentally, having a camera crew follow the process) is quite the trend. Peter Crouch has had a chance to raise some extra money for Dulwich Hamlet FC in Discovery+’s Save our beautiful game, while Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham and documented their journey in Welcome to Wrexham on Disney+. Now David Beckham has jumped on the wave.
IN Save our team, the former England captain is returning to his footballing roots, building himself into a struggling team in the same London youth league in which he started his career. The Westward Boys were once the best team, but promotion to the Premier Division has left them in bottom of the table. It’s up to Beckham to whip them into shape, with his fatherly, borderline cheesy (this is a Disney show, after all) advice.
For the most part, it seems to work. At first, Beckham’s involvement in the season is a secret to the boys, and he surprises them after watching them lose 4-1. Their spirits are certainly lifted and Golden Ball’s ego is boosted when they tell him that the passing score on Fifa is “sick”. There is joviality and laughter – questions for Beckham include “didn’t you miss a penalty?” “What car do you drive?” – but their new coach soon puts them to work.
Beckham will undoubtedly come across well (worth noting perhaps, that Save our team is co-produced by his own company, Studio99). He is confident in front of the boys, imparting wisdom to navigate life both on and off the field, but also self-aware and nervous that he will put a foot wrong. Best of all, and surprisingly for one of the most famous men on the planet, he knows when to stay in the shadows.
Into his spotlight are the players themselves. The first episode brings calm Orlando to the fore after Beckham has found a kinship with him—he too used to always be picked last for teams. In games, Orlando is quick and Beckham singles him out as an early star player, but his shyness is his downfall. Not only does he struggle to make friends with the rest of the boys, but it’s crucial that they can’t hear him on the pitch either. But when the film crew uses time with Orlando at home, a bright, lovable, mature young man emerges.
Save our team giving each of the Westward Boys their time in the spotlight. We meet Fred, who Beckham describes as “a typical goalkeeper – crazy and loud”, who must learn to channel his frustrations and energy into playing a better game. There are Rio and Ethan, who have the potential to become phenomenal scorers with the right focus. Vaughan, who is easily irritated by the positions he is asked to play, is advised by Beckham to trust the coaches’ instructions. The children, eager to please and talented, are the real stars of the show.
The dedication of their two coaches, Ade Abayomi and Edwin Mensah, also shines through in every scene – and their belief in the boys is contagious.
Unlike Save our beautiful game or Welcome to Wrexham, Beckham isn’t trying to make any big sweeping statements about the state of grassroots football. Underfunded and often ignored by industry bigwigs, there’s certainly a lot to say, but Save our team skirt this in favor of a more uplifting, less preachy approach. Here, only the magic of football counts.
You can do anything if you work hard, says Beckham. And with each 45-minute episode, it’s hard not to take his word for it. Sometimes Beckham’s inspirational speeches veer so far into cliché that you half expect Mickey Mouse to appear in his PE kit. But who can blame him for wanting to bring some joy to the world? I couldn’t wipe my own cheesy grin off my face.