Beckham-mania takes root in California, and beyond
LOS ANGELES |
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - David Beckham has already made a significant splash since arriving in America's entertainment capital, despite being restricted to a brief debut for his new team because of a lingering ankle injury.
The 32-year-old, one of the most recognisable figures in the game, has triggered unprecedented fan interest at Los Angeles Galaxy while making serious inroads into the glitzy showbiz world of Hollywood.
The England midfielder lit up the Home Depot Center on Saturday when he finally came on as a substitute for the Galaxy in an exhibition match against FA Cup holders Chelsea.
Although Beckham was on the field for only 12 minutes, plus four minutes of stoppage time, every move he made sparked an eruption of cheers from the capacity crowd of 27,000.
The match, which ended in a 1-0 win for Chelsea, attracted a record television audience for a match involving an Major League Soccer team on ESPN of around 1.47 million. Roughly one percent of homes with ESPN tuned in to watch the action.
One of soccer's most marketable players during his time with Manchester United and Real Madrid, Beckham has already made his number 23 Galaxy shirt the biggest seller in the game.
More than 200,000 replica shirts were snapped up by fans last week as Beckham-mania took root in Southern California and beyond.
"We have never come across anything like it," Chris McGuire, sports marketing manager for Adidas football, said in a statement.
"At this time, the LA Galaxy David Beckham jersey is the No.1-selling shirt in the world."
While Beckham's popularity with the fans appears to be soaring to new heights at the start of his American Adventure, he is also making waves in Tinseltown.
David and his pop star wife Victoria enjoyed a head start as they live in a $22 million (11 million pound) Beverly Hills mansion not too far from close friends Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes.
The Cruises gave the Beckhams plenty of advice before their move from Madrid to Los Angeles and co-hosted an invitation-only, celebrity party for the English couple on Sunday.
Also hosted by Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, the party was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art and attracted film stars such as Bruce Willis, Jim Carrey, Eva Longoria, Wesley Snipes, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
Beckham's long-awaited debut for the Galaxy on Saturday also pulled in the celebrities with Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. actress Jennifer Love Hewitt and English actors John Hurt and Ray Winstone in the crowd.
For all the hoopla and hype that have surrounded Beckham's much-trumpeted move to Major League Soccer, he is most comfortable when out on the pitch with his team mates.
"I just want to be part of the team," he said after being formally introduced as a Galaxy player.
"The other stuff that surrounds me and that comes with me as a player, I believe I have always handled in the right way. I've always been in football to play football."
More than anyone, Beckham knows his honeymoon period is all but over and that, swollen left ankle permitting, there is much work to be done.
"I don't think I've ever had a more extraordinary year in my life than this one and this last week has been truly one of the most remarkable," he said.
"The attention has been immense, not on just the Galaxy and LA as a city but on me and my family. It's been incredible.
"But this is where the hard work starts. It's not just about getting the fans here for an exhibition game, it's about getting them here every time we play. It'll be a long process but it's one I'm looking forward to."
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