Galaxy's star sends fans out of this world-Edmonton Journal

Chance to see Beckham bend it draws people from near and far

Jennifer Fong and Catherine Griwkowsky
The Edmonton Journal

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

EDMONTON - As if the hundreds of Beckham jerseys in Commonwealth Stadium didn't give it away, when the players were introduced Tuesday evening it was clear who most fans had come to see.

Sure, they cheered when the Vancouver Whitecaps hit the field. But when the Los Angeles Galaxy's No. 23 was called, the stadium erupted in applause, whistles and screams, especially from the crowd's female contingent.

The exhibition soccer game kicked off at 7 p.m. and fans were pumped about the chance to see David Beckham, despite the threat of rain.

"She's from Victoria, so she's used to it," Jordan Reklan said of his girlfriend, Michele Jalavan, as a few raindrops began to fall on their heads. The two had come from B.C. just for the game.

In fact, many fans came from out of town.

"We're really stoked," said Kyle Penn, 22, from Calgary, who made the drive with the Smith family, Sean, Stefan and Connor.

"It's our first opportunity to see football at a higher level than 11-year-olds," said Stefan, 21. His dad, Sean, was born in England and the family feels soccer is in their blood.

They think soccer is growing in popularity in North America and say Beckham has a lot to do with that.

"As a player, he's everything a fan would want," said Stefan.

Beckham is an international celebrity who has transcended sport, the Smiths say.

"He's amazing," said Sean. "He's one of the best players to see what's happening and anticipate the game. Girls also think he's sexy-hot."

The family has been following Beckham's career for years, and say it's a "huge highlight" to be in the stands to see him play.

Indeed, fans were hoping to see the famous Beckham bend, and every time he touched the ball the crowd got a little bit louder and the camera flashes a bit brighter.

Earlier in the day, selected members of local U-7 to U-11 soccer clubs were invited to a pre-game clinic with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Forty contest winners got to sharpen their skills with Whitecaps coaches and players who drilled them in dribbling, passing and ball handling.

But most admitted the biggest draw was getting to see Beckham play. "He's a really good soccer player," said midfielder Danielle Baker, 10.

"And he's kind of cute," said her teammate, Olivia Claramarshall.

They weren't the only ones swooning over Becks. Female fans held up "I heart Beckham" signs, some perhaps hoping the British hunk would single them out and respond to their marriage proposals, even from the upper bowl.

Of course, the star already has one of the most famous marriages on the planet -- his wife is Victoria Beckham, a.k.a. Posh Spice.

Entry into Commonwealth Stadium was smooth when gates opened at 6 p.m., with no major lineups. Inside, the lineups to the merchandise stand were much longer as fans snapped up Beckham jerseys at $155 each.

jfong@thejournal.canwest.com

reporter2@thejournal.canwest.com

edmontonjournal.com