Stars come out to see Beckham's first game with Galaxy
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
July 22, 2007
AP - Jul 22, 12:20 am EDT
CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- David Beckham starred in the biggest premiere outside Hollywood when the English superstar made his debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a sold-out, star-studded crowd.
His daunting challenge to convert America into a soccer-mad nation began with an uneventful 12-minute performance that rated off the charts in electricity and excitement.
"The objective was just for him to be on the pitch and give the people the dessert they were looking for," Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said.
The fans ate it up.
Beckham got into the exhibition in the 78th minute, jogging onto the field amid huge cheers and a sea of camera flashes from the crowd of 27,000.
"The atmosphere is incredible," he said after Chelsea's 1-0 victory. "It made me feel a little bit embarrassed at times."
The 32-year-old midfielder spent most of the game on the bench because of a nagging left ankle injury.
There were cheers each time Beckham touched the ball, the highlight being a corner kick he took in stoppage time.
Landon Donovan, who usually handles such kicks, gave way to Beckham, who said, "I was happy because I didn't have many touches on the ball."
Beckham's only physical contact was when Chelsea's Steve Sidwell attempted to tackle him.
"I saw him coming and I jumped just in time so my foot wasn't planted when he hit me," Beckham said.
After taking about 10 minutes to get loose on the sideline, he entered as a substitute for Alan Gordon, who slapped hands with the English superstar before Beckham took the field for the first time.
"I'm not fit. I haven't trained since I got here," he said. "But it's nice to be out there."
Chelsea captain John Terry scored in the 49th minute on a 19-yard shot that ricocheted off the right post and left post before caroming into the net.
AP - Jul 22, 12:17 am EDT
"Speaking as an Englishman, it was great to see him come on," Terry said. "Everyone can see what he can do. He's going to take it (soccer) to another level. He's a world-class player and I'm sure a lot of players are going to be attracted to the MLS now."
Beckham got off the bench in the 66th minute to warm up, exciting fans who had waited most of the game to see him. He jogged up and down the sidelines and a roar went up when Beckham tapped an out-of-bounds ball back to the referee, his first kick of the night.
He briefly ran off the field with the Galaxy's trainer before returning and peeling off his warmup shirt to reveal his favored long-sleeved jersey on a warm night when the other players wore short sleeves.
He said he went inside to use the bathroom and get his ankle re-taped.
"I didn't want to do it in front of the whole world," he said.
Beckham's debut was crazy from the start. When he took his seat on the end of a metal bench, he was quickly surrounded by about 100 photographers pushing and shoving to get a shot.
He calmly took in the scene as the scrum furiously snapped away within inches of him before being shoved back by about 10 security guards. He chatted with teammate Peter Vagenas while the Galaxy's starting lineup on the field was all but ignored.
Beckham's wife Victoria, wearing her trademark huge black sunglasses, along with actress Katie Holmes and her infant daughter Suri, watched from a private box above the field. Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt was like a lot of spectators, attending her first soccer game.
Eva Longoria, minus new hubby Tony Parker, comedian Drew Carey, NBA star Kevin Garnett, movie producer Brian Grazer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and English actors John Hurt and Ray Winstone also made what were likely their first trips to Carson, a downright gritty suburb compared to the stars' usual haunt of Beverly Hills. Beckham displayed his famous fashion sense at a post-match news conference, appearing dapper in a blue-and-white shirt, buttoned navy cardigan and navy slacks.
"The attention has been immense," he said. "I have to say thank you to everybody."
As he exited the interview tent, fans waiting outside began running after him and screaming.
AP - Jul 22, 12:09 am EDT
As expected, Beckham didn't start the game or join his new teammates in pre-game warmups.
Dressed in a blue pullover jersey, white shorts and knee-high white socks, Beckham sat hunched over watching the action and stood up to applaud a couple of near-miss scoring chances by his teammates.
With the game scoreless at halftime, he walked across the field waving to fans before disappearing into the tunnel.
Rebecca Pavon was impressed by the electric atmosphere.
"It was pretty cool. I can't believe all the girls, mostly 20 and under, screaming for Beckham," she said. "Of course there's no age cutoff to look at handsome guys. I'm 38."
James Fast, an 11-year-old attending the game with his family, wore a No. 23 Beckham jersey and rattled off what he knew about the Galaxy's $32 million man.
"I know he was with Manchester United, then Real Madrid," said James, a soccer player himself. "He's amazing. He's going to be better than Landon Donovan."
Not everyone cheered the Galaxy. Chelsea of the English Premier League had its own blue-clad fans in a corner of the stadium.
In the two hours leading up to the game, fans sipped drinks in the shade at a bar on a plaza outside the stadium and checked out merchandise stands. A variety of Beckham T-shirts and jerseys were on sale, with the top price $100.
A few thousand even bothered to watch the warmup act, a game between Mexican club team Tigres UANL and Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Tigres won 3-0.
AP Sports Writer Ken Peters and Associated Press Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.