Is Beckham mania dying?
Asia's enthusiasm for football star David Beckham was showing signs of fading Friday as the pin-up former England captain faced playing in front of a less than half-empty Hong Kong Stadium.
Only a few dozen fans turned up at Hong Kong Airport to greet the 32-year-old and his Los Angeles Galaxy team mates when they arrived Thursday, compared to hundreds who turned out when he last visited with Real Madrid in 2003.
Ticket sales for Sunday's exhibition match against a Hong Kong team have meanwhile got off to a sluggish start, with only 6,000 of the 35,000 available seats sold since they first went on sale on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong Football Association has admitted it only expects to have at best 20,000 spectators, half the 40,000-seater stadium's capacity. Ticket prices for the game range from $15 to $125.
However, the apparent lack of enthusiasm may reflect more on the anonymous nature of the rest of Beckham's team rather than a tailing off of interest in Beckham.
Diehard fans of the former Manchester United star were first in the queue for tickets but many were unable to name any other members of the Los Angeles Galaxy team he now plays with.
At a press conference Thursday evening, questions directed to manager Ruud Gullit were almost exclusively about his star player, to the extent that he exclaimed at one point: "I'm not Beckham's father".
Beckham has made 99 appearances for England but was left out of new manager Fabio Capello's squad for his first match in charge last month.