Beckham succeeds in promoting the game in front of 37,104
By ERIC FRANCIS
It took just eight minutes for David Beckham to steal the show last night.
It started innocently enough along the sideline, where he started on the right side with two loops before passing it through the middle.
Seconds later, he went to the left, crafting another loop and following it by bending it brilliantly to the delight of 37,104 fans.
Yes, adjusting deftly to Commonwealth Stadium's spotty grass, ol' Becks changed his shoes while play continued around him.
In a dangerous move for a 'friendly,' he interrupted his well-watched shoe-tying by attempting a tackle with his laces untied.
In what amounts to breaking news in the tabloid world he lives in, it appeared he neglected to employ the standard double-knot.
"I've done it a few times in my career - I didn't come out and check the pitch," smiled Beckham of the odd move that had the pro-Galaxy crowd mumbling.
"Five minutes in, I felt the rain coming down and was slipping - it was a quick turnaround."
Oh sure, he did a swell job distributing the ball from east to west, bending in corner kicks and even got the masses riled up with one-timer he blasted from outside the 18-yard box that sailed ever-so-slightly wide right.
He also gave the folks plenty to cheer about when he tied the game late in the first half with a cross headed in by some guy not named Beckham. As if the fans were unaware who set up the goal, the stadium announcer handed the assist to the man everyone came to see. The cheer was almost as loud as the one that greeted the English icon during introductions.
Contracted to play at least 45 minutes as part of an exhibition aimed at raising profile and money for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Beckham mailed it in for another 30 minutes before he handed off his captain's armband, clapped towards the crowd and limped off slightly to an ovation.
"He doesn't want to come off the pitch and disappoint the fans - so we made a compromise and he played a little longer," said Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit, who revealed after the game Beckham played despite a foot injury.
"It's just bruising - a slight lump on top of my foot," said Beckham.
Despite that, he performed.
Rightfully criticized a day earlier for refusing to offer up as much as a sound byte when greeted at the airport by the media and three dozen fans, Beckham's mere appearance caused a buzz soccer rarely enjoys in Canada. All day long, local sports talk radio shows centered around the merits of the game vs. how utterly boring it is to most North Americans.
While not on the concourse snapping up thousands of $30 Galaxy t-shirts with Beckham's No. 23 or $115 game jerseys, the fans who paid $25 and $85 a seat seemed content to simply take in the unique event largely controlled by the Whitecaps, who won 2-1.
Yes, the ladies love him for his body and good looks, and the men love him for his body of work and his dashes upfield.
Last night, they got their fill. And for one night anyway, soccer in Canada was the winner.