Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 17 News List

Beckham makes debut for LA Galaxy

AFP , LOS ANGELES

A spectator holds a sign as fans await the start of a match between LA Galaxy and Chelsea FC at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

David Beckham kicked off his US soccer career in low-key fashion on Saturday, making a 12-minute cameo appearance for Los Angeles Galaxy in a 1-0 defeat by English giants Chelsea.

The 32-year-old England star, who has been nursing an injured left ankle, came on as a second-half substitute in the 78th minute to roars and an explosion of flashbulbs from a 27,000 sell-out crowd at the Home Depot Center.

Beckham, who has not played since helping former club Real Madrid clinch the Spanish title 35 days ago, appeared to be moving gingerly and saw the ball only eight times while on the field.

Yet his every touch was greeted by squeals of delight from fans crammed into the ground to witness the star's first game in a Galaxy jersey, which saw Chelsea win thanks to a 49th-minute John Terry strike.

A relieved Beckham said afterwards he was pleased to have got his first game out of the way after months of hype and anticipation.

"I was pleased to get out there," Beckham said. "I haven't trained since I've been here so it was just nice to get out there, even for 15 minutes."

Beckham, who could earn up to US$250 million over the course of his five-year deal, said he was delighted by the rapturous reception he had received from the crowd.

"The crowd was incredible. That's what we want to achieve -- we want to be filling stadiums and seeing the atmosphere like it was today," said Beckham, whose arrival in Los Angeles has already helped boost the profile of soccer in the US.

There was a late scare for Beckham fans however when the midfielder was brought down heavily by a clumsy challenge from Chelsea substitute Steve Sidwell, before rising to his feet and shrugging off the pain.

Beckham said afterwards his ankle still ached.

"It's sore," he said. "It's not going to go away for a week or two. But it's good, I'm happy to be here."

Earlier, Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas defended the decision to restrict Beckham's debut to less than 15 minutes.

"It is a long-term process, and we want to make sure David is 100 percent fit," Lalas said. "We have games next week, next month and over the next five years. There will will be plenty of chances to see David Beckham play here and across the country."

Despite the fleeting nature of Beckham's appearance, the match was the hottest ticket in town on Saturday, with a bevy of stars from the entertainment world among the audience.

Beckham's pop-star wife Victoria was joined in the VIP section by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, along with actress Katie Holmes and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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