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Beckham's signing captures US attention

Beckham acknowledges that the attractions of the showbiz capital played a large role in persuading the family to make the move to Los Angeles.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2007 19:19 IST
Andy Goldberg (Indo-Asian News Service)
Andy Goldberg (Indo-Asian News Service)

When an official of the Los Angeles Galaxy wanted to impress journalists with the impact of the signing of David Beckham, he referred to the other big story dominating the country's headlines - the proposal to send more US troops to Iraq.

"Condoleeza Rice (Secretary of State) was giving testimony in Congress yesterday. They interrupted that to give the news of David's signing," said Timothy J. Leiweke, president of AEG that owns the club.

No one seriously considers Beckham's signing more significant than the latest developments in Baghdad.

But for a country bombarded with a stream of bleak news, the endorsement of the world's biggest soccer superstar was certainly a welcome diversion.

From the front pages of the New York Times to the blabber-mouthed newscasters on the cable news shows, reporting on the Beckham deal represented the most intense media focus ever placed on football in the US.

No one was perhaps more ecstatic than a sports caster on the Fox Soccer Channel, a cable TV outfit that for years has been almost the country's sole broadcasting outlet for the world's most popular sport.

Hardly containing his glee, Mitch Peacock said Friday was "Beckham Day" and should be declared a national holiday.

That might be pushing it a bit. In a country still dominated by sports like American football, basketball, baseball and hockey, many Americans in the street still couldn't tell David Beckham from Franz Beckenbauer.

"No idea who that is," said a woman in downtown Los Angeles when shown a picture of the photogenic superstar. Another woman also failed to recognise the world-renowned icon, but something else did fire a spark or recognition.

"Wait a minute," she said. "That's Posh, right?" She was referring to a photo of Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh Spice for her former role in The Spice Girls music group.

"I know she's dating him or something but I could never pick him out of the crowd," the woman said.

While the focus of most of America's attention was on the member of the dream couple who wears the shorts, Victoria's celebrity status was like an added bonus.

Beckham acknowledged that the attractions of the showbiz capital played a large role in persuading the Beckham family to make the move to Los Angeles, where he acknowledged that there would "plenty of opportunities" for Victoria.

But he added that she was currently content working on her fashion line rather than thinking about restarting a career in music.

"On the singing side, I think Victoria's happy doing what she's doing at the moment," said Beckham.

"She's got her own fashion line with the jeans and the sunglasses and the perfumes. I'm sure there'll be plenty of other opportunities for her but she's just happy doing what she's doing at the moment and also being a mum."

Beckham and his new bosses at the Galaxy insisted that for all the hype about the superstar status, the main motivation for the deal was winning games on the pitch.

They dismissed critics who said that at age 31, and after being dropped from the England team and the Real Madrid starting line-up, Beckham was a waning force who was looking to cash in on the twilight of his career.

"He's coming here at the peak of his career," said the team coach Frank Yallop. "He's going to make a difference on the pitch and off."

Yallop also revealed that he would play Beckham in a central midfield role, rather than his usual position on the right wing in order to maximise his involvement in each game.

"People must understand that this is first and foremost a soccer deal. His first priority is to make this a better soccer team," said Leiweke.

"We expected David Beckham to come here and be an important player. But he's going to bring an audience, a fan base and intensity that we've never had before."

That intensity is already making itself felt on the bottom line. According to the Galaxy's general manager Alexei Lalas, in the 24 hours following announcement of the deal, the club sold 2,000 season tickets.

The excitement was evident also among Beckham's future teammates.

"I still think he's a great player - but marketing wise it's also a dream come true," said Landon Donovan, the golden boy of US soccer who will now find himself playing alongside the world's greatest sporting icon.

Another American footballing legend, Kobi Jones, laughed off suggestions that Beckham's huge income, which according to some experts equals the combined salary of the entire league, could cause jealousy in the dressing room.

"He's a superstar - I'll just pick up all the stuff that falls out of his pockets," he said.

First Published: Jan 14, 2007 19:19 IST