Beckham Sees 'Bright' Future For Chinese Football; Visit Results In Stampede
Retired football player David Beckham said Thursday he sees a "bright" future for the Chinese game despite past corruption scandals and the dismal performance of the national team, according to the AFP. Visiting Shanghai as ambassador to the Chinese Super League, the recently-retired former England captain "defended his decision to take up the role, which has been viewed as an ambitious attempt by the football authorities to improve the battered image of the Chinese game." Beckham said, "People questioned why I wanted to be involved in something that, like I said, in the past had a bad name or there was corruption involved. For me, the past is the past. I'm only interested in the future and it's going to be a very bright one" (AFP, 6/20). REUTERS reported "the graft issues and problems with on-field violence have been blamed for China's lack of success" at the int'l level, with the team qualifying only once for the World Cup, in '02. CSL Deputy General Zhu He Yuan said, "Obviously everyone pays attention to Chinese football, we know that it is going through a rough time, but we are working very, very hard. We invited David Beckham to inspire kids to participate in the game and to inspire more people to watch the game and from his last two trips we have achieved this goal" (REUTERS, 6/20).
BECKHAMANIA: In London, Mark Blunden wrote seven people were injured Thursday in a stampede to catch a glimpse of Beckham "when he visited a Chinese university." Shanghai police said that "three police officers, two university security guards and two students were hurt." More than 1,000 people "had gathered at a stadium in Shanghai Tongji University when the police cordon was stormed" (EVENING STANDARD, 6/20). Also in London, Leo Lewis wrote in Beckham's first moments outside the car, "everything seemed to be proceding in line with usual Asian levels of Chinese Beckhamania" -- students hung from windows or rooftops, others climbed trees for better view, others still pressed themselves against the campus gates and behind cordons of security guards. But as Beckham set foot in the football training ground, "it was clear that Shanghai's university students were cut from a more passionate cloth than elsewhere." A door was broken down and "the authorities rapidly lost control." Guards lost their footing "as the human tsunami washed inexorably" toward Beckham. The event was canceled in the tumult "and Beckham's stay cut down to just five minutes." Photographs that have emerged in the aftermath show heaps of shoes, bags and other possessions lost in the chaos, "and snaps of anguished students weeping at an opportunity squandered" (LONDON TIMES, 6/20).