The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beckham bows, Benjamin balks

London, Nov. 27: Queen Elizabeth today presented David Beckham with one of her highest awards, the OBE.

“It’s great to receive an honour for playing football, for something I love doing,” England captain Beckham said after receiving the red-ribboned award at Buckingham Palace today. The OBE, one of the many honours the queen bestows on achievers in public life, was conferred on him in recognition of his role in promoting Britain through his sporting and off-field achievements.

“He has been a great ambassador for the country on and off the pitch,” Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman said when the award was first announced in June.

Real Madrid player Beckham, known almost as much for his dress style as his soccer skills, attended the ceremony in a black tailcoat and grey tie, carrying a back top hat, and with his long hair tied neatly back in a bun. He was accompanied to the palace by his pop star wife Victoria, wearing a black feathered hat, as well as by his grandparents. The award — a golden cross-shaped medal — came a day after he entered Real Madrid’s record books by scoring the Spanish club’s 600th European Cup goal with a trademark free kick in a 2-1 victory over Olympique Marseille.

British Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah had been due to receive the same honour as Beckham, but chose instead today to publicly reject the award in a protest against the war in Iraq and “years of brutality” under the British Empire. “I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’,” Zephaniah, 48, wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper. “It reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality.” His move echoes John Lennon’s return of his MBE medal in 1969 over Britain’s stance on Vietnam.

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