IT TOOK 12 days of travelling 800 miles into the Amazon rainforest, but finally David Beckham found what he was looking for – a whole village of people who had no idea who he was.
The former England captain, one of football’s biggest global stars, said his trip was inspired by a short walk across a London park after a five-a-side game following his retirement.
He said: “All of a sudden I was on my own walking through a park and thinking ‘you know, I haven’t done this for 15 years’. That was kind of the first thing that made me think I should do something where I can go into a situation I’ve not been in before.”
Beckham was joined by three friends to fly into Rio de Janeiro and continue their journey to meet the remote Yanomami tribe by motorbike, canoe and plane, but even his fashion designer wife was unsure he would be able to be anonymous.
He said: “Victoria was not convinced that they wouldn’t know who I was, but I was kind of 95 per cent sure that I wouldn’t be recognised by the tribe – and I was right.
“The fact is, for the last 22 years my every day has been on a schedule and the fact that I woke up in Rio and we said, ‘Let’s go to the favelas’, and we can have lunch when we want and have dinner when we want and kind of talk about what we wanted to and to meet people I’ve never met before – that was refreshing.
“And then obviously as we went along the trip I was being less recognised and less recognised and by the end of the trip when we were with the tribe – they didn’t know who I was, they didn’t know what football was, and it was incredible.”
Beckham, whose journey into the jungle brought him into contact with snakes and spiders, said one of the most frightening things was a frog that jumped on their tent in the jungle.
He said: “On this trip I was like snakes, not a big fan of, spiders … but frogs were the thing I was kind of not sure I wanted to come across one. And one of the first animals that we saw was a bright orange frog, which unnerved me even more.”
The ex-Manchester United star stayed a night in Manaus, where England will play one of their group games, and said he was not worried about players in the tropical climate.
He said: “Obviously I took a good look at the stadium because I knew England would be playing there in a few months. I wouldn’t say they’re going to struggle because I know they’re going to be well prepared, you know Roy Hodgson is a good manager and will prepare the players for this first game.
“It’s a massive game against Italy, the first game in the World Cup for England, it’s a huge game. People talk about the humidity but like I said, the players prepare for this so at the end of the day they’ll be prepared for the start of the game.”
• David Beckham Into The Unknown, Monday, BBC1, 9pm