David Beckham has spoken fondly of his Jewish heritage, saying that he feels "part of the community."
In a public conversation with producer Ben Winston, the ex-Manchester United footballer said: "I am part of the Jewish community and I am proud to say it."
In a wide-ranging discussion about his life and career at the launch of the Lira Winston Fellowship, he was tested on his claims to Jewish identity with Winston starting off the prayer for bread and Beckham finishing it in Hebrew.
David Beckham takes a selfie at St Johns Wood synagogue (Sofi Adams)
Speaking about how his mother’s father Joseph was Jewish, he said: ‘My grandfather always made sure we would keep up with certain traditions. We went to bar mitzvahs and weddings and I would wear a kippah. Every Saturday morning, I used to go to see my grandfather – you’d walk in the house to my grandmother preparing chicken soup and matza balls and latkes. We always kept to those traditions; it was always about the family coming together and spending time together."
Outside of his Jewish connections, Beckham confirmed and spoke for the first time about Lionel Messi joining his Inter Miami side.
The former England star revealed what it was like to hear one of the best footballers in history was joining his team and also revealed how still thinks about one of the most infamous episodes of his career – when he was sent off in a World Cup match against Argentina in 1998 – "all the time, every week."
Rumours about Messi joining his side Inter Miami have been circulating for a few weeks but speaking about it for the first time, Beckham said: "The team is one of the things I am most proud of and one of the toughest things I’ve done in my career but also one of the most rewarding.
"A couple of weeks ago I woke up to thousands of messages on my phone – I was in Japan at that point – the news had come out that Lionel was coming to Miami.
"My dream from the word go was to bring the best players in the game to Miami wherever they were in their career – I made that commitment to our fans. So when you hear that one of the best players, if not the best player, who has won everything in the game, and who is still a great player and still young and doing what he is doing, wants to come play for my team, it was a massive moment. So it’s an exciting time – although it has not been officially announced yet."
Later on, during a candid and often emotional 80 minutes of questioning he was asked by host Ben Winston about the impact of his notorious sending-off in the 1998 World Cup saying it was something which "still affects me" and changed him as a person.
He added: "I think about it a lot, most weeks. When I look back at it now that I am 48 and a bit more experienced, with more of an understanding, I think it happened for a reason. There is nothing I regret in my career but I do wish that it hadn’t happened. I do wish that I didn’t think about it every week.
"It was a very tough moment and the hardest thing was the impact on my family more than me. I am going to try to not get emotional but they were what I was worried about more than anything else. I will never forget when my grandad called me and said he had people knocking on his door saying that I’d let the whole country down and my family down, and he wanted to know what he should do.
"I feel sad that it turned me into a little bit of a cold person in certain situations. I couldn’t drive in London; I couldn’t go for a walk. I couldn’t go to restaurants or to bars. Friends didn’t want to walk with me because they knew we would be abused. If I stopped at traffic lights people would bang on the window or spit. But when I look back at it, I am not sure I would have had the career I had, or been able to go through some of the other tough moments if I hadn’t been through that."
Beckham was being interviewed about qualities of leadership for the launch of a fellowship for Jewish educators in the name of Lira Winston – mother of Ben and wife of acclaimed fertility pioneer Lord Robert Winston – who died suddenly in December 2021 aged 72 after a heart attack.
The £75-a-head talk was meant to be held at JW3 but when the tickets sold out in 55 minutes a bigger venue – St John’s Wood Synagogue – was chosen to accommodate nearly 600 people. Queuing for the best spots started two hours before the event.
He has been friends with Ben, who is best known for producing James Corden’s shows since he did a Comic Relief sketch with Corden in 2009.