Thu, Jul 19, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Golden balls tackles LA

David and Victoria Beckham seem to have been preparing all their lives for LA superstardom. But does his new 'soccer' team know what it's taken on?

By Marina Hyde  /  The Guardian, Los Angeles

Victoria Beckham hasn't been out of the spotlight since she moved to Los Angeles.


In an instance of almost unbearable poetry, the LA Galaxy ground is called the Home Depot Center. Approach it from the 110 freeway and it rises up at you at the end of a wide, palm tree-lined boulevard, where a small army of liveried gardeners are using leaf-blowers to vacuum azalea petals from the sidewalks. Crikey, you think. Could it be any more like White Hart Lane?

When he signed for LA Galaxy back in January, David Beckham drew the facile condemnation of those bewildered that he should choose a move to Hollywood as opposed to, say, Tottenham. But as so often with the Beckham story, resistance is futile. Earlier this week he was formally unveiled at the team's ground -- it's pronounced the Home Dee-po Center -- as the all-new, US$262 million spokesmodel for Major League Soccer. His first game will be against a touring Chelsea on Saturday.

At the Galaxy's HQ, his advent has sparked fevered activity. Hectares of parking lots are dotted with cars belonging to the retinue of support staff preparing for perhaps the biggest press conference in the club's history. Several of the vehicles sport Christian fishes, with one bumper sticker reading "Jesus Saves." Here, adding the words "and Beckham scores off the rebound" would not be an instantly recognizable cultural reference. This is not a heritage site.

Meanwhile, across town, the August issue of W magazine is hitting the shelves, carrying an exclusive photoshoot with the Beckhams that might delicately be described as "lively." We see David wandering through a rocky desert in ecosystem-inappropriate clothing (tightly laced leather trousers). We see David easing Victoria into a corset. We see a heavily tattooed David sprawled across a bed in his underwear. We see Victoria, also lingerie-clad, spreadeagled in a chair. The entire shoot may as well be captioned: "This is your future, Major League Soccer! It'll hurt less if you bite down on that leather strap." In reality, the cover line runs: "When the soccer star married the pop singer, it was a match made in British tabloid heaven. Now David and Victoria Beckham are determined to become the new American idols."

Grit and determination

And as always with the Beckhams, it is the determination that's so hypnotic. You could power small countries off their extraordinary drive. It might be a strategem, it might be unconscious, but their most brilliant way of short-circuiting the sneerers has been never to hide how much they want it - whatever "it" might be. Breaking LA may be the couple's greatest challenge yet, but truly, how could their story not end up in the town where the movies get made?

The municipal motto of Carson City, the south-eastern suburb in which the Home Depot Center is located, is "Future Unlimited." It could double as a statement of MLS's hopes. Yet shifting one's gaze from the cover of W to the little league soccer practice taking place by the stadium, it doesn't feel like a big fish is about to arrive in a small pond. It feels like a whale is about to splash down into a bathtub.

Not that the complex is not well appointed. It houses a tennis arena and a velodrome. In the distinctly corporate reception area, there hangs a huge photograph of a recent occasion where the pitch was covered in dirt for the staging of a motorcycle event. "Pretty cool, huh?" says a passing employee. "Can't see it catching on at Real Madrid's stadium" is one's first thought, but so polite and gentrified is the atmosphere that it is impossible not to murmur assent.

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