Beckham didn't put a foot wrong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am

Though the attendance of 14,000 was short of the hoped-for 20,000, the crowd at yesterday's LA Galaxy match against an invitation South China team were thrilled by the display of football - and media magnet David Beckham.

The star's admirers, many of them decked out in the club shirts he has worn during his career, cheered every time Beckham touched the ball.

Nestea Li Cheuk-wing, 18, and Cheung Chak-wei, 16, were both wearing Beckham's No23 Galaxy shirt and had been hoping the 32-year-old star would hit the target.

'I've only watched LA Galaxy playing on the internet, but honestly the team is pretty weak,' Mr Li said.

He did not expect Beckham, 32, to play the entire match, but was pleasantly surprised because the midfielder stayed on for the full 90 minutes.

Beckham later posed for photographs with the South China players.

Mr Li said he bought one of the cheapest tickets, at HK$200, although he had paid HK$1,500 to watch his idols play for Real Madrid in 2003. '[Real Madrid] had more stars,' he said.

Mr Li's sentiments seemed shared by most other fans. About 11/2 hours before the match, a steady stream of people could be seen opting for the cheaper seats, and most of the premium HK$980 seats remained empty.

After the game, Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit said there had been a 'good pitch, good crowd and good opposition'.

Tourist Jani Blankexship, 25, of Finland, said he did not have big expectations of the match because it was just a friendly. 'I haven't seen any big stars like Beckham playing live, so this is good,' he said.

He was accompanied by fellow Finn Carolina Kilgast, 23, who agreed Beckham was the main attraction.

Not everyone supported Beckham. Wong Chun-kit, 29, a police officer, went to the match wearing a South China Football Association shirt. 'I want to show my support for Hong Kong,' said Mr Wong, who took the day off to attend.

The Hong Kong Football Association said gate receipts were HK$3,429,480.

During the match, Beckham showed off his skills by finding the net twice. First, the former Manchester United star and England captain scored from a spot kick for a late equaliser in the match, drawn 2-2. He then converted his penalty in the subsequent shootout, giving many of his fans a thrill.

However, South China took the shine off Beckham's day by winning the shootout 5-4.