Sunday, September 02, 2007

Captain America

In his first major newspaper interview since arriving in the US, David Beckham talks about life in the celebrity circus and his mission to make America fall in love with football

Tom Watt
Sunday September 2, 2007
Observer Sport Monthly

It is a Tuesday evening at the end of July. The Galaxy are playing Pachuca in Superliga, a fledgling tournament based loosely on the Champions League, with four teams each from the States and Mexico. It is, in part, an obvious attempt to connect with what should be a natural audience for the game in the US. The whole country is becoming more Hispanic as immigration from Central America, in particular, continues. More people now speak Spanish as a first language in Los Angeles than speak English. The migrant population bring a traditional football culture with them, though they are yet to be convinced by MLS.

The week that followed was, if anything, more intense: the build-up to Beckham's first scheduled appearance in a Galaxy shirt, a friendly against Chelsea on 21 July. The stadium was sold out; celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger squeezed into pitchside seats and executive boxes all round the ground. Photographers fixed their lenses on the substitutes' bench, where Beckham, nursing an ankle injury, sat watching his new team-mates until making an appearance with 13 minutes left in his new team's 1-0 defeat. An overflow press box had to be set up to accommodate the sports journalists and gossip writers. The host broadcaster, ESPN, used an unprecedented 19 cameras to cover an event that rewarded their investment with the best-ever viewing figures for a game involving an MLS club.

But for all the season tickets sold - there were 5,000 new registrations within two days of Beckham's move being confirmed - he believes the HDC crowd around us represents a unique opportunity within the local community. 'It's always been said football can bring people together all around the world. I think something special can go on in this stadium and in this city as well. Look around tonight: there's people from everywhere: black, white; Mexican, South American, Korean, Chinese, European. People from all the different communities, all the different neighbourhoods, they're all here together for the football.'