Beckham officially unveiled as L.A. Galaxy player


Los Angeles : Football superstar David Beckham has been officially unveiled as a player of the Los Angeles Galaxy, marking the most ambitious move by a US football team since Pele joined the New York Cosmos in 1975.

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Beckham, 32, is expected to earn an estimated $250 million over the course of his five-year contract as football bosses in the US hope that his media celebrity helps shift the world’s most popular sport into the national mainstream.

“This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on in my career,” Beckham told thousands of cheering fans and over 200 journalists at the Home Depot stadium Friday.

“I think potentially in the States, soccer could be as big as it is everywhere in the world and I’m very proud to be part of that for the next five years, and maybe after that,” the Briton said.

Wearing a dapper grey suit despite the scorching southern California heat, Beckham smiled widely as rock music roared and confetti flew for the unveiling of the number 23 shirt. He will make his playing debut July 21 in an exhibition game against Chelsea.

“I’d like to say how honoured I am to see so many people here. I’ve played for two of the biggest club sides in the world and played for 11 years for my country and still am and I’ve always looked for challenges in my career and something exciting in my life,” Beckham said.

“I’m looking forward to starting training next week and to the first game,” he added.

Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles with his pop star wife Victoria has already sparked massive media interest and a surge of season-ticket buying for the team which currently languishes next to bottom in the Major League Soccer, MLS, the premier competition in the US. The team has also sold 250,000 team jerseys since his signing.

But Beckham also illustrated the cultural gap he and the sport have to overcome to make it big in the world’s richest sporting market.

“The most important thing for me is family, the second is football … er, soccer, sorry,” he said, provoking a mixture of boos and laughs in the crowd.

He signed for the Galaxy earlier in the year after a long spell of sub-par performances on the pitch, which saw him dropped from the Galacticos of Real Madrid and the England team he formerly captained.

But he forced his way back into the Real team to help them win the Spanish league title, silencing critics who viewed his US move as a sporting sell-out and a sign that his best playing days were over.

Galaxy team manager Alexi Lalas called the unveiling a “historic moment” in US football.

The MLS commissioner Dan Garber said: “We aim to make MLS one of the best leagues in the world and I can’t think of a better player or man to make this all happen.

“Thank you for your commitment to helping build this country into a soccer nation,” he told Beckham.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, dismissed criticism that US football – which trails basketball, American football and other sports in popularity, television ratings and funding – could not hope to recoup the massive outlay on Beckham’s recruitment.

“There’s going to be a billion-dollar impact,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “No question about it.”