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   June 19, 2002 | 1930 IST


Umit Davala
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Arise Sir Becks and Sven?

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The football-mad English could be hailing their national squad -- and its Swedish coach -- as knights as well as heroes if they charge through Brazil on Friday and go on to win the World Cup.

Bookmakers have slashed the odds of England captain David Beckham becoming "Sir David" within a year and say the team's manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, might also join British aristocracy if he guides his team to football's biggest prize.

"The odds on Beckham being knighted have dropped from 50-1 to 20-1 and could be shaved even further if England get past Brazil in the quarter finals," a spokesman from bookmaker William Hill said on Wednesday.

"We don't open a book on just anybody, because many people know in advance who is to be knighted...but I suspect a win against Brazil and we'll have bets for many players to be knighted, including bets on Sven," he said.

For those who track Britain's titled and landed families, stars of the English football team would be ideal candidates for knighthood -- an honour conferred with the touch of a sword that dates back to medieval chivalry.

"Anybody is eligible for such an honour, but they must have brought money, prestige or glory to the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth," said Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of the aristocrats' bible Burke's peerage.

"Leaders of the football team would certainly be considered for knighthood if they were to win the World Cup. I'm not sure Sven-Goran Eriksson would be honoured, but it would be an interesting and unusual case," he said.

If Queen Elizabeth -- on the advice of the prime minister -- were to knight the popular Swede, he would join an elite rank of non-British knights, including former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Irish singer Bob Geldof.

"The honour for the non-British is exactly the same as if they were British, but they cannot put 'Sir' at the start of their name," Brooks-Baker said.

The queen has bestowed knighthoods on the cream of Britain's entertainment and sport celebrities, including Paul McCartney, Elton John and several members of England's 1966 winning World Cup team.

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger was awarded a knighthood just last week, showing wildmen too can be tamed with a touch of the royal blade.

"Many dozens are knighted each year, but the award still carries great historical importance," Brooks-Baker said.

Even footballers who made a habit of scoring against hapless English goalies are eligible for the British aristocracy -- Brazilian soccer legend Pele was knighted in 1997.

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