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Beckham apology for foul booking

• Beckham claims he wanted a booking

LONDON, England -- David Beckham has issued a formal apology for the furor after he admitted getting himself deliberately booked in a World Cup qualifying match.

The England captain came under fire after he revealed he had deliberately set out to foul an opponent to earn his second yellow card of the World Cup qualifiers.

Beckham, who cracked a rib in Saturday's 2-0 win against Wales, manufactured a ban because he knew the injury would keep him out of Wednesday's match in Azerbaijan in any case -- thus wiping out his existing caution.

The England captain said Wednesday he had realized his error and apologized to England fans, players, officials and head coach.

He said in a statement released to the UK's Press Association: "The greatest honor in my career was when I was made England captain, there is no better feeling in football than playing for your country.

"In an interview on Tuesday I was asked a question and made a frank and honest admission to counter the negative speculation.

"I now know that was wrong and apologize to the Football Association, the England manager, my teammates and all England fans for this.

"I have also apologized personally to my manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. I know that as captain you are in a privileged position and must always abide by FIFA's code of fair play, something which I have always done throughout my career.

"On this occasion I made a mistake. I hope that people will now focus on the match tonight and cheer the team on, as I will be doing."

Earlier FIFA president Sepp Blatter increased the pressure on the Football Association to take disciplinary action against Beckham, saying he was "astonished" at Beckham's revelation the England soccer captain set out to foul an opponent to earn a second yellow card.

There were calls for him to be stripped of the England captaincy and pressure is growing on the FA to investigate a charge of bringing the game into disrepute.

But England coach Eriksson said he had no doubts about Beckham carrying on as captain.

"Did I ever doubt that Beckham should carry on as England captain in the future? No way. I have never doubted that," said Eriksson after his team's 1-0 victory in Azerbaijan.

"Of course I appreciate his apology. I haven't read it exactly as I was with the team. But that's very good."

FA chairman Geoff Thompson also gave the 29-year-old a vote of confidence to continue to lead his nation.

When asked whether Beckham could carry on as England captain Thompson replied: "Of course he can. The captain has possibly made an error of judgment but he has apologized for it.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "Of course I think it's a good thing that he's given that apology.

"This is a matter that will take its own course and we need to speak to the England manager.

"The issue will be dealt with in the proper way."

Out for a month

Beckham will be sidelined for up to a month with the rib injury he suffered, it was confirmed Wednesday.

He had returned to Spain after the game to have his ribs examined by doctors at his club Real Madrid.

"Beckham will be out of action for three to four weeks," said Doctor Juan Carlos Hernandez, a member of Real Madrid's medical staff, on the club's official Web site.

"Additional tests done on the England player show that he has two small fractures in his ribs that are forcing him to rest and take anti-inflammatory medicine."

In addition to missing Saturday's game at Real Betis, Beckham will have to sit out the following La Liga fixture against reigning Spanish champions Valencia.

He is also set to miss Real's next two Champions League games, both against Dynamo Kiev -- despite Real sporting director Emilio Butragueno revealing he hoped Beckham would be available to face Kiev on Tuesday of next week.

He may also miss England's next match which is a friendly against Spain in Real's Bernabeu stadium on November 17.

British newspapers rounded on Beckham Wednesday.

"Becks has shamed England" was the sports page headline in the country's biggest selling daily, The Sun.

'Clown with a crown'

"What an act of stupidity, David" fumed the Daily Mail, while the paper's columnist Jeff Powell called for him to be stripped of the England captaincy under the headline "The FA must now dethrone their clown with a crown."

Widely quoted was England's 1966 World Cup hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst who accused Beckham Tuesday of "bringing the country into disrepute" and said it would have cost the captaincy had it happened in his day.

"It was deliberate," Beckham told The Daily Telegraph of his two reckless clashes with Wales fullback Ben Thatcher Saturday.

"I am sure some people think that I have not got the brains to be that clever, but I do have the brains.

"I could feel the injury. So I fouled Thatcher. It was deliberate. I knew straight away I had broken my ribs. I have done it before. I knew I will be out for a few weeks, so I thought: 'Let's get the yellow card out of the way.'"

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