LA Galaxy star David Beckham was left heartbroken Wednesday after he learned that his grandfather had died just hours after the soccer ace landed in South Africa.
Beckham – who is in South Africa to help England win the race to host the World Cup in 2018 – had just landed in Cape Town when he heard the sad news about Joseph West, 83, from upset family members.
The multi-millionaire footballer was extremely close to Joe, who was 83, and often cited him as his inspiration.
His death follows a serious illness – in August, the Beckhams rushed back from LA to the UK after he was taken into hospital.
Beckham’s family is believed to have urged him to stay in Cape Town, where he is due to take part in Friday’s draw for the 2010 World Cup.
A friend told the UK Daily Mail newspaper: “David is absolutely devastated. He was so close to Joe, who was his mentor – he only got off the plane when he heard the news.
His family is urging him to stick to his work commitments and leave at the end of the week, but there is no way that David wants to miss Joe’s funeral. If he has to fly home, then so be it.”
The former England captain put on a brave face as he joined FA President Lord Triesman in a meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and handed the German a signed Three Lions shirt for his granddaughter.
The LA Galaxy midfielder then said he was hoping to be part of Fabio Capello’s plans for the World Cup 2010 after England were announced as one of the eight seeded teams, although his place in the squad is not guaranteed
Beckham, who last month signed a loan deal to rejoin AC Milan in a bid to keep alive his dream of playing in a fourth World Cup, added that he had fond memories of South Africa.