I have decided to explore the constructed identity of two footballers. One of which is ex professional Vinnie Jones who was known for his ‘Hard Man’ persona both on and off of the field he played from 1984 to 1999. David Beckham is the second footballer I will be looking at throughout his career Beckham has been seen as a Celebrity as well as a footballer even when he played for two of the most prestigious clubs in the history of the game, but since his move stateside he has become an icon for the ‘New Man’. Beckham has played since 1992 and was one of the first in a new breed of ‘Modern Footballers’.
Footballers have been always been known for partying and drinking heavily one of the first of this generation was the infamous George Best who’s career started in the mid 1960’s and went on until 1984. This isn’t what i will be focusing on in this blog post but it is still relevant information as it defines still today what a footballer is regularly presented to the public through the press.
Vinnie Jones started his career as a non-league footballer and played whilst working as a hod carrier. He then had a brief spell in Sweden and then moved to Wimbledon this is where Jones became famous for his ‘Hard Man’ image. Wimbledon were known by the British press throughout the 80’s and 90’s as “The Crazy Gang” this was because of their dressing room antics, outrageous pranks and tough tackling and behavior on the football field. It is in his playing period with Wimbledon when Jones became famous for his image as a “Hard Man”. One of the key events that helped paint this image of Jones during a match against Newcastle where Jones had to mark a young Paul Gascoigne; a famous image was captured (Below) where Jones is clenching Gascoigne’s privates, this image alone went incredibly far in creating the identity of Jones.
David Beckham represents the ‘new man’ and he has an identity that is famous throughout the world. He has used his popularity as a footballer to become a model and international celebrity. One of the main ways in which this identity was first constructed was his relationship with Spice Girl Victoria Beckham at the time they first started dating both were incredibly popular for there own respected careers Victoria’s being in the Music business; since then they have both been at the forefront of British tabloid press.
What is interesting to explore is the power that the Beckham’s seem to have this extract from an article published in the Guardian:
He is clearly secure about his sexuality, but he is also in touch with his feminine side. Remember the sarong? While the tabloids briefly took the mickey, the fact was that he looked good in it. Soon afterwards, briefly, in the privacy of our hotel room, I tried on my wife’s sarong to see if I could get away with it. Through her hysteria I became painfully aware that I couldn’t. Not really in Beckham’s league when it comes to looks.
(Steve Busfield, The Guardian, 9th July 2002) ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jul/09/gender.features11)
Busfield sums up brilliantly what I am trying to say; David Beckham has constructed an identity that is so strong and powerful not even the tabloid press can really get away with mocking him which is an amazing achievement and testament to the identity that he and his management team has constructed.
In briefly comparing both Footballers it is clear that they are very different using Jeffrey Weeks’ phrase they are two Invented Catergories (Weeks, 1991) of Masculinity; but what would surprise most is that Vinnie Jones has gone on to a very successful Hollywood movie career after surprising the critics when staring in Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and two smoking barrels (1998). He was originally asked to star in the movie as a kind of cameo character with his ‘Hard Man’ image shining through but Jones has used this and took it to Hollywood making lots of money on the way. Jones has constructed an identity himself by playing rough and tackling hard on the football pitch and has amazingly transferred this into the world of cinema staring in an amazing 66 films including big summer blockbusters like X-Men. Beckham has also become famous across the pond but for nothing more than his football skills and modelling; it will be interesting to observe Beckham as he retires from football and tries his hand at other career paths to see if his very mediated constructed identity becomes a success.