The football community mourns the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of England and Manchester United’s most iconic players, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 86. As tributes flood in from across the globe, many celebrate Charlton not only for his phenomenal football career but also for his influential role in the game’s future, notably, shaping the trajectory of David Beckham’s illustrious career.
Having claimed victory in the 1966 World Cup, Charlton remained an influential figure even post-retirement, taking on leadership roles as a director and ambassador for the Red Devils at Old Trafford. But Sir Bobby’s influence was not limited to United. He spearheaded the creation of a pioneering soccer academy in 1976. This establishment, the first of its type, hosted summer and residential sports programs both domestically and internationally.
Among the plethora of talents identified and honed at this institution, the name that stands out the most is none other than the former England captain, David Beckham. A testament to Charlton’s immense contribution came from Jamie Redknapp, now a commentator with Sky Sports, who credited Sir Bobby for significantly shaping his footballing journey.
It was in 1985 that a young Beckham stumbled upon an advertisement for the Bobby Charlton Soccer School on the television show ‘Blue Peter’. An association that started from that advertisement would change Beckham’s life forever. As Beckham recollected in a 2017 BBC documentary about the football great: “That’s how my career started at Manchester United. I went at 10 years old and went back there the year after and ended up winning the competition. That was when Sir Bobby contacted Manchester United and said ‘maybe you should have a look out for this young kid’. So I owe everything to Sir Bobby because, if not, maybe I wouldn’t have had the chance of living my dream of playing for the club that I’d supported for so many years and the club my Dad supported.”
Interestingly, Beckham’s middle name, Robert, is a tribute to Charlton – a mark of the deep admiration Beckham’s father had for the legendary player. Following the heartbreaking news of Charlton’s demise, an emotional Beckham shared, “Sir Bobby was the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United. I will be forever grateful to a man I was named after , someone I looked up to and was a hero to many around the world not just in Manchester and our country where he won the World Cup in 1966… A true gentleman , family man and truly a national hero… Today isn’t just a sad day for Manchester United & England it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented.. Our thoughts go out to Lady Norma , their daughters and grandchildren. Rest in Peace Sir Bobby.”
The soccer academy proudly bore Charlton’s name for over four decades. Even though Charlton distanced himself from the company a while back, the academy still continued its mission to teach and inspire young talents around the world. However, the recent pandemic dealt a blow, leading to travel restrictions for young participants. This adversity ultimately pushed the Bobby Charlton Soccer and Sports Academy into liquidation in December 2022, leaving an outstanding debt of close to £40,000, as per records from Companies House.”