David Beckham said Monday he hoped he could “make a difference” in England’s bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.
The former England captain, who now plays for LA Galaxy in the US-based Major Soccer League, is preparing for one final charm offensive in Zurich where FIFA, football’s global governing body, will vote on the hosts for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Thursday.
Beckham, who made his name as a midfielder with Manchester United, was speaking Monday during a brief stop-over in his home city of London where he was visiting the 2012 Olympic Stadium for the first time.
He was widely praised for his role in garnering the votes that helped London secure the Games in the run-up to the 2012 vote in Singapore five years ago.
Now English football chiefs are banking on the ‘Beckham effect when it comes to the World Cup bid as well.
“Hopefully I will make a difference,” Beckham said. “There are many people, like Prince William, who have been involved and working hard for the bid and to get it to this final point.
“We are going to FIFA and a lot of delegates because we need to tell those people about why we feel it is the right thing for us to get the World Cup.”
But the bid process itself has been mired in corruption allegations that have led to the suspension of two members of FIFA’s all powerful executive committee following an investigation by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.
England, despite being the birthplace of football, has staged the World Cup just once — back in 1966 when they won the tournament for the only time.
Now England officials fear their 2018 bid could be undermined just days ahead of the vote by an edition of BBC television’s Panorama programme, due to be broadcast Monday, which is set to probe allegations of FIFA corruption.
But Beckham insisted: “I believe it will be a fair decision.”
England, Russia and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup while Australia, the United States, Japan, Qatar and South Korea are bidding for 2022.
London 2012 chairman Lord Sebastian Coe is also heading to Zurich and he said a vote for England would be a “no-brainer”.
“You have your foot hard on the pedal powering hard for as long as you can until the final vote,” explained Coe, an Olympic 1500 metres champion at the 1980 and 1984 Games.
“It is winnable – there is no question about that. If you judge these bids on the solid merits and operational delivery that you are bringing to these championships and the legacy you have the ability to bring to football, at the end of the day this is a no-brainer of a decision.”
As for the Olympic Stadium, located in the east London district of Stratford, Beckham, born in nearby Leytonstone, said: “It is a very proud moment, not just for myself but also for East End people, to be able to see the makeover of the area.”