Power of prayer — This David Beckham wants to pedal India to glory at CWG
Unlike his namesake, this David Beckham from Car Nicobar has abandoned his football dreams to embrace the speed of the cycling track and at the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, he wants to put India on the cycling map.
Zipping across stretches of flat roads, the sea-toasted, sun-burnt coastal air fresh across his face, David Beckham sped through the island paths of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands - pedalling fast.
It's lockdown season in the island cluster - a policeman stops him, "Where are you going? You know you aren't allowed to go out, na!"
A sheepish smile and a prompt, "I'm practising for the Junior Cycling World Championships!" reply would make the police also wave him by - and pedalling faster, Beckham would speed away, never letting anything hamper his training regime.
Straddled between Little Andaman and Nancowry, prone to tsunamis and heavy showers, the little-big island cluster of Car Nicobar may have snatched many an irreplaceable, invaluable thing from David Beckham's life, yet these very islands have also made him dream, moulding him to be stronger, shaped by life's challenges itself, making him a firm believer.
"I've always wanted to get out of Car Nicobar. I would pray that I could go to Port Blair, at least, but then look, I made it to Delhi for the national cycling camp in 2017 and since then, there has been no looking back," Beckham says, the smile playing on his face, as he settles in for a chat with The Bridge on a sultry New Delhi evening in July, ahead of his debut at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Fresh off his experience at the Asian Track Cycling Championships where he won the bronze in the team event, Beckham, who has been a National Record holder in U-17 and along with a fellow cyclist named after another football namesake, Ronaldo, is currently on a roll - hungry for experience and glory and burning with the desire to bring Indian cycling on the map.
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"This was the first elite cycling competition for me and I got to compete with people who I've always looked up to," the 19-year-old says, being in the same team with fellow Andamenese cycling, Esow Alben, as well.
Yet it wasn't always cycling where Beckham wanted to make his fortunes - much like the person he has been christened upon, his first love was football.
"My father was a huge David Beckham fan. At the hospital, during my delivery, a Beckham match was on and the bet was that if Beckham scores a goal and they win the match - I would be named Beckham," he remembers with a light chuckle.
But apart from this lasting name his father could give him, Beckham doesn't have too many memories of his father, sadly, as he barely remembers him, having lost him to the dreadful tsunamis in 2004.
But that wasn't all. In 2014, when Beckham was just 11, he lost his mother as well.
"I was shocked when I heard it. I was in school when my mother's younger brother came and told me that my mom is no more. I cried a lot, I was uncontrollable. I had never felt more alone than then in my life," he says, his voice mellow.
Since then, he has been living with his maternal uncle, who has come to take the role of his guardian, pushing him on to pursue his cycling dreams.
Finding the pedals to life
Much before cycling happened for David Beckham in 2017, much like his namesake - the legendary English footballer, Beckham wanted to make it as a football player and was even halfway there, having played in the Subroto Cup as well.
But life seemed to have different plans for him when after months of constant praying at the St. Paul's Church in Car Nicobar's Parka village, where he'd assist the Father, things began to fall in place for him.
"I have always idolised Deborah (Herold) Di. She came to Car Nicobar in 2012 - I was very young then. Seeing her, inspired me. I remember telling everyone that someday, I would also like to be like her and bring pride to my islands," Beckham recalls, having prayed hard for the hostel life and the life of an athlete.
"I would stay with the Father of the Church, helping and serving in various things. And every day I would pray that I can get to a hostel, lead the life of an athlete and train and then I got a letter from Delhi mentioning I was selected for the India camp - I couldn't believe it!," Beckham recalls.
Ever since there has been no looking back for David, who has had to endure a lot of hardships in life to emerge as the strong cyclist he is today.
Attracted to the speed and thrill of the sport, Beckham fell in love with cycling - as the rungs of the pedal brought a new meaning to his life, coming as a companion to him - a secret ticket to a better life.
"I feel I have been God-gifted, whatever I have prayed for from God, I have received," he says gratefully, yet with a tinge of sadness in his voice, knowing the sacrifices God has also wanted from him and the prices he has had to pay to keep that cheerful smile playing on his face.
Charting the course for the Commonwealth Games
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games right around the corner, Beckham has been training harder than ever before, eager to impress - do his island, his family and a whole nation proud, as he prepares to race on the tracks, the speed once again greeting him.
"It won't be easy at the Commonwealth Games. There will be strong cycling countries like England, Wales, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand - they are powerhouses of cycling, but we have also trained hard and put in so much work and dedication and we will try and finish within the top 5, realistically," Beckham puts forward.
And if Beckham knows anything, it is this power of hoping and praying and with mere days to go for the Games, he does just that - sitting miles away, his eyes glistening as he fondly misses his Church, his little village of Parka, the Christmas celebrations there, steeling himself with a brave resolve to make his family and his parents in the heaven's above proud - if not in football, but definitely as a cyclist pedalling towards bringing a revolution in the Indian sporting space.