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The World's Game (According to Us)

1/28/2009
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Aspiring soccer coaches can stop studying motivational techniques and polishing up their team talks. They don't need to send the squad to boot camp with Norwegian Special Forces and they certainly don't need to threaten suicide. Motivating players is easy. Just send them a few text messages.

At least that's what David Beckham seems to have done to push Landon Donovan, two-time Bundesliga dropout, to succeed. Donovan has four goals in five exhibition matches since he joined Bayern Munich on loan, and the other day he attributed his performance partly to Becks—and his Sidekick.

"David has tried to lift me and told me that I am going to make it,'' Donovan told Bild. "We are in contact and write each other text messages."

It might be difficult to accept something like "Go 4 it, Lando!!! TTYL :-)" as deeply inspiring, but the text message has become a stand-in for lots of communication in the global soccer world.

And Beckham is a master texter.

On Sunday he scored his first goal for the Rossoneri. (Did Lando inspire it? He did say, "I told [David] recently that I think it's great how he is playing for AC Milan.'') Immediately afterward, Beckham reportedly texted England's assistant coach, Franco Baldini.

"Did you see my goal?" he said.

When he's not lifting spirits or self-promoting, Beckham allegedly uses the text for sex. He's had several reported textual affairs, including one with model Sarah Marbeck in which they exchanged branded SMS titillation. Beckham supposedly sent her a lewd message, then wrote, "I'm driving and I've nearly crashed after that message. X."

Marbeck replied, "How fast are you driving and what car is it?"

Beckham: "Too fast and the Ferrari. X."

Later Marbeck texted that she was wearing, "an Armani spaghetti-strap dress"

Beckham: "Sarah, them straps come off them gorgeous shoulders."

Marbeck: "You can see me strip in front of ya Ferrari."

Was this exchange anything like the one that lifted Donovan?

Text messages have also been used by soccer players to sidestep difficult face-to-face conversations, as when Manchester United teammates Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo dissolved the tension after their World Cup row (Ronny complained to the ref, and Rooney was sent off). Don't worry, said Rooney, we texted after the match.

Ronaldo has reportedly dumped girls by SMS as well ("l8r!"), while Luca Toni textually confided in teammate Miraslav Klose about problems he was having with his "best friend." Toni meant the ball. He couldn't make it go in the net.

Coaches have likewise gotten into texting during their toughest times. Roy Keane supposedly quit his job at Sunderland with a quick SMS (though the club denied this), and both Bernd Schuster and Jose Mourinho informed their players they'd be leaving by message. In Mourinho's case, this was part of a circus of texts. Depending on whose phone you read, Chelsea either fired him, or he quit.

Mourinho has also used the text to navigate his complex relationships with other managers. When he was at Chelsea, he had many heated exchanges with Alex Ferguson through the press, but he sent him congratulatory SMS when Manchester United won. Whom do we believe, the press or the text?

Right now, two other managers, Milan's Carlo Ancelotti and L.A.'s Bruce Arena, are in a dispute over Beckham. Ancelotti wants him to stay; Arena wants him back. Perhaps all that's needed to cool things down is a little texting.

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