EXCLUSIVE: David Beckham shares his ‘heartbreak’ over Nobby Stiles and Sir Bobby Charlton’s battles with dementia as England legend backs Sportsmail’s campaign to tackle the disease
- Sportsmail has launched a campaign to tackle football-related dementia cases
- Led by former striker Chris Sutton, Sportsmail has launched a seven-point plan
- David Beckham has backed campaign, admitting concerns over heading the ball
- Former England star Nobby Stiles battled disease before passing last month
- Now Stiles’ former team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton has also been diagnosed
David Beckham has backed Sportsmail’s campaign calling for football to finally tackle its dementia scandal.
In a powerful message, the Manchester United and England legend spoke of his ‘heartbreak’ over Nobby Stiles and Sir Bobby Charlton’s battles with the disease and has joined this newspaper’s drive for immediate action.
‘It’s clear there are questions to be asked about the effect that heading the ball might have,’ the former England captain said. ‘I want to lend my support to the Sportsmail campaign.’
England legend David Beckham has backed Sportsmail’s campaign to tackle dementia
Sportsmail made its demands, spearheaded by former Celtic, Norwich and Blackburn striker Chris Sutton, on Tuesday.
Declaring that enough was enough, we issued a seven-point plan calling on the authorities to take meaningful action to battle the disease.
The proposals have already been backed by the family of World Cup winner Stiles, who died last month, and former England striker Gary Lineker.
Now Beckham, who won 115 caps for his country, has pledged his support. ‘Nobby Stiles and Sir Bobby Charlton were two of my absolute heroes growing up,’ he said of his fellow United legends.
Nobby Stiles sadly passed away following a battle with dementia back in October
Stiles’ former England and Manchester United team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton is now also battling the disease
‘Watching them with my dad made me want to become a footballer and to play for Manchester United and England. It was a dream come true when I was signed, and when I actually got to meet and be coached by them it was the most amazing experience.
‘The lessons they taught me as a young player stayed with me throughout my career. Great men who gave our country so much when they were part of that World Cup winning team.’
Stiles’s son, John, has spoken movingly about his father’s battle and has also demanded that the PFA take immediate steps to financially aid those in need. Days after Nobby’s death, the news that his team-mate Sir Bobby also had dementia emerged.
‘To hear from their families about the true devastation and impact of dementia has been heartbreaking,’ added 45-year-old Beckham.
‘Dementia robs families of their loved ones in such a cruel way. The football community must come together to see what needs to change to protect players and their health.’
As well as Beckham, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has also supported out campaign
Also speaking strongly on dementia was Jurgen Klopp. The Liverpool manager told Sportsmail: ‘World football must be involved in this discussion. There has been a generation of players affected and it must be looked at.
‘One of my biggest strengths was heading. As a player, you have these neck muscles, and you don’t feel the heading really. As a coach I did a drill where the boys chipped a long ball, I headed it back and they had to go for it. When the ball arrived at me, my body was not skilled any more, so for the first time in my life I could feel the full extent of the ball hitting the head. That was really hard.
‘Since then I haven’t done a lot of headers, if any.
‘Over the years, in youth training, it’s pretty much cancelled and I don’t think we need it in youth training. We have to think about solutions and how we can adapt training.
‘We shouldn’t say, “Oh my God, we have to ban heading in games”. But we have to talk about it, 100 per cent, and see what the smarter people say.’
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: SPORTSMAIL’S CAMPAIGN TO TACKLE DEMENTIA