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Now I've seen everything: Beckham to lecture at USC?

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Apologies for two mentions of Euro soccer in a row, but when I was searching for an article from the Guardian (UK) for a post on another blog, I came across a news release from the Annenberg Center suggesting that David Beckham has been invited to give a lecture at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

The release cited an article from the Times, and indeed it appears to be true...

HE MAY have failed all his GCSEs and admitted to being baffled by his then six-year-old son's homework, but David Beckham is poised to lecture at one of America's oldest universities on the conundrums of global diplomacy.

When the 32-year-old footballer arrives at his new home in Los Angeles next month he will be bombarded with invitations. But the most unlikely and prestigious will come from the University of Southern California (USC). The 127-year-old university is keen to offer the city's latest celebrity a platform from which to explain to its students how "soccer" can change the world. According to sources close to Beckham, he is keen to join the debate.

This weekend diplomats from the United Nations, the World Bank and several developing countries were travelling to the home ground of Beckham's new team, LA Galaxy, to watch a game and speak to the star's advisers about his potential impact.

The trip was arranged by Professor Nicholas Cull, director of USC's Center on Public Diplomacy. Cull is organising a global seminar on the role of sport in diplomacy next year.

"David Beckham is already part of the masters course taught here, as an example of the influence of athletes, so I am hoping that he will be able to address us at that seminar," said the British-born professor last week.

"People who don't follow football don't appreciate what a globally significant figure Beckham is even now with his career in transition."

Um. Well, quite.

Beckham's interest in the diplomatic power of football was prompted in part by Pele, the Brazilian striker who also played in the US and became a goodwill ambassador for Unesco. A Brazilian ambassador to the UN once said that Pele "had spent 22 years playing soccer, and in that time he has done more for goodwill and friendship than all the ambassadors ever appointed".

Cull said the US had failed to realise the significance of the sport as an instrument of "soft power", influencing people through culture rather than conflict. "The United States government botched an opportunity in Iraq - they set up a TV channel and then failed to broadcast the World Cup, which would have won over a lot of people to western ways," he said.

German newspaper polls showed that fewer foreigners thought of Germany's wartime past and more about the friendliness of its people after it hosted the World Cup.

Well, that's where they start to lose me. I mean establishing a reputation for good organization and cheap beer in Germany isn't exactly a challenge on the order of selling Karl Dorrell as an inspirational speaker, for instance, and I am still deeply unnerved by large groups of Germans in stadia... as are most Poles, Czechs, etc.


(Not really.)

Anyway, I suppose it's nice to see that there are people at USC who are certainly thinking "out of the box" to find different ways to engage students in getting a broader view of the world.