Soon after, in February 1997, Victoria attended a game in London with one of her bandmates. Sadly, David blew it in the players' lounge afterward. "I'm quite shy," he admits. "I just sort of waved from the other side of the bar." Even after Fuller approached, introduced himself to Beckham and brought him over to Victoria, he couldn't work up the nerve to ask her out. "I sort of said hello and then just went back to Manchester," Beckham recalls. "I was quite upset and gutted."
Luckily he got another chance. At a game a week later, word spread through the locker room that two of the Spice Girls were in the stadium. "And I'm thinking, Please let it be Posh," David remembers. It was, and this time he didn't let her get away, asking her for her phone number, which she jotted down on a plane ticket. He rang her the next day"very nervous"and drove down to see her in London that night. The pair married in September 1999, four months after the birth of their first child, Brooklyn. And, says David, he has kept that fateful plane ticket to this day.
Victoria's take on their meeting is somewhat different. "I didn't really know who he was. I was never into football," she says. What she fell for, she insists, was his family-mindedness, not his skill on the pitch. "He was always with his mom, dad and sister while a lot of the footballers were at the bar getting drunk. I could sense right from the start that David was a gentleman, and very family-oriented, which is important because I'm the same." (Evidence of this is clear as Brooklyn, eight, and his brother Romeo, four, scamper around, both wearing hip-hop garb of trucker hats, oversize T-shirts and shiny Nikes. The littlest Beckham, Cruz, two, is presumably napping.)
Though it took fame to bring them together, Victoria and David grew up within 15 minutes of each other in London. Both were born into working-class households, and both had big dreams. "At school whenever the teachers asked, 'What do you want to do when you're older?' I'd say, 'I want to be a footballer.' And they'd say, 'No, what do you really want to do, for a job?' " recounts David. "But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do." At 14, he went for it, renting a room in Manchester and enrolling in Manchester United's training academy.
Victoria was just as determined. "Everything revolved around my dancing and singing lessons," she remembers, though in retrospect her interest in fashion was also germinating. "I used to customize my school uniforms. I loved clothes, hair and makeup. I've always been a real girly girl."
The pair, of course, were both phenomenally successful in their chosen realms. The Spice Girls remain one of the top-selling female pop groups in history, and David is a sports legend, with a right foot that could open Fort Knox. But it hasn't all been a walk in the park. The Spice Girls split in 2001though the band will reunite for an 11-city tour to promote their greatest-hits album later this year. David, 32, has endured his share of disappointments on the field, particularly at the start of last summer's World Cup, when many of his longtime fans voiced concerns that he was no longer qualified to start for the English national team. All was forgiven after a wicked free kick against Ecuador, with which he became the only Englishman ever to have scored in three successive World Cup finals. Last August, however, manager Steve McClaren dropped Beckham from the team, saying he wanted to go "in a different direction." But after Beckham's impressive performances this spring with Real (which won the Spanish title), McClaren reinstated him for a pair of June matches. Still, back in Britain, many fans are seeing his impending move to America as a crass sellout at a time when his powers are fading.