Beckham's back but city's interest doesn't live up to the 2003 frenzy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am

David Beckham is back. But the crowds at the airport and ticket sales for his team's exhibition match on Sunday against a South China invitation team are much less frenzied than those that greeted the soccer star's visit with Real Madrid in 2003.

The former England captain and his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates were met by dozens rather than hundreds of fans when they arrived at Chek Lap Kok from Shanghai last night. And only 3,800 tickets were sold yesterday. Since sales began on Wednesday, only 6,000 of the 35,000 available tickets had been sold.

Hong Kong Football Association deputy general secretary Lam Shing-kui admitted sales had suffered because the match was confirmed at such a late stage.

But because fans in Hong Kong tended to buy tickets just before kick-off, the association was confident of having 20,000 spectators at the game, Mr Lam said.

Tickets are HK$980, HK$380 and HK$200, with discount tickets for students and the elderly at HK$120. The first 2,500 tickets came with free tickets for a match between Singapore's Home United and South China next Tuesday.

About 200 fans queued outside the ticket office at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday before sales began, compared with more than 2,800 fans who camped out for the Real Madrid tickets five years ago.

However, Beckham's star factor was still the driving force for many fans planning to go to Sunday's match at the Hong Kong Stadium.

'He has exceptional football skills. His passing and free kicks are great - and he is good looking,' student Terence Tse Ting-kwan, 16, said.

Mr Tse chose to pay HK$380 for a ticket closer to the midfield to get a better view of Beckham's skills rather than take a cheaper student ticket.

Another fan, Michael Luk, 17, was surprised there was no queue when he turned up to buy his ticket at noon yesterday.

'I came for Beckham, because I have liked him since he played for Manchester United,' he said.

Mike Jansen, who said he was a rugby fan, not a soccer fan, only bought his HK$200 ticket for the former England captain - the only player he knows among the two teams.

'I've never seen Beckham playing live,' the 39-year-old English teacher said. 'I want to support him and see if he is really so good.'

Although Australian visitor Rhonda Brownlow, 65, could not stay for the match, she flew from Shanghai to catch a glimpse of the midfielder at the airport.

'He is handsome, sexy, has a great body and is approachable,' she said.

However, there were a few fans who planned to go to the game for reasons other than Beckham - even some women.

Student Krik Lam Wai-ki, 17, said she wanted to see LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan in the match. 'I started watching American teams after the 2002 World Cup,' she said.

Hong Kong is the last leg of the team's Asia Tour. The team will train this morning before meeting the press. They will hold a football clinic for 80 lucky youngsters at 4.30pm at King's Park Sports Ground. The team will leave Hong Kong on Monday.