Beckham Downplays Expectations As Beijing Welcomes Him As Chinese Ambassador
Caught in an "impassioned swirl of weeping fans, earnest schoolchildren and nervous-looking officials," DAVID BECKHAM arrived Wednesday in Beijing as the country’s first global football ambassador, according to Leo Lewis of the LONDON TIMES. His arrival by private jet began a four-day tour of the world’s most populous nation -- "a country where his skill as a midfielder and as a vigorously successful salesman of his own brand are both held in awe." Beckham "played down reports" that he was earning huge sums from this and two future planned visits to China (LONDON TIMES, 3/20). The AFP wrote Beckham played down expectations he can improve the "battered image of the Chinese game." The former England captain's new role has been "widely seen as an ambitious attempt by the Chinese Super League to recover from years of match-fixing and corruption involving players, referees and officials." But the 37-year-old said that his focus was on developing the sport at grassroots level. Beckham: "What has gone on in the past? I am not a politician so I have nothing to do with it" (AFP, 3/20).
TOUGH TASK: The BBC opined Beckham "has his work cut out." In a nation of 1.3 billion people some estimates suggest that "fewer than 100,000 youths play any form of organised football." In terms of TV viewers China has plenty of fans, "but many prefer to watch foreign games over the tarnished domestic league" (BBC, 3/20). The AFP also wrote Beckham raised the prospect of "one last stop" on his global football journey, refusing to rule out playing in China after his contract with Paris St. Germain ends. Beckham said, "I am continuing to play now. So if I continue to stay fit, if I continue to progress as a player because I still feel that I can learn from playing the game, who knows?" (AFP, 3/20).