TORONTO - After five years of false
starts David Beckham will finally make his Toronto Major League
soccer debut when the Los Angeles Galaxy make an early season
visit to play the Toronto FC on Wednesday.
But Beckham's Canadian MLS unveiling might also be his swan
song as the former England captain's five-year North American
soccer adventure is set to conclude at the end of the season.
"I'm happy to be back in Toronto, I've been here a few
times and really enjoyed it," a smiling Beckham told reporters
on Tuesday. "The few times I've been here I enjoyed myself."
When Beckham announced his signing with the Galaxy in 2007,
it sent shivers of excitement throughout hockey-mad Canada and
triggered a spike in season ticket sales for a Toronto soccer
franchise that had yet to play a game.
Within hours of the announcement that Beckham joined the
Galaxy in a $250 million deal, Toronto FC said they received
thousands of calls and sold hundreds of season tickets.
Now, in the last year of his contract, Beckham will finally
play his first MLS game in Toronto but likely not before the
same adoring crowd that greeted him during the 2008 MLS
All-Star game in Toronto when Beckham-mania was at its peak.
In the half-decade since leaving Spanish giants Real Madrid
to conquer the MLS, much of the Beckham buzz has vanished.
The hundreds of media, many from around the globe, that had
flocked to Toronto in 2007 to watch the celebrity midfielder
sit at the end of the Galaxy bench in a designer suit in an
injury-aborted MLS debut, have not returned.
The special accreditation and presidential-type security in
place for Beckham's massive media briefing five years ago had
slimmed down on Tuesday to one handler, a half-dozen television
cameras and a handful of local media in a small conference room
in the basement of a downtown hotel.
Like Pele before him, Beckham arrived in North America as a
soccer missionary with the ultimate goal of popularising the
Now, as the Beckham experiment draws to a close, people
have already begun to debate its merits and success. Certainly,
the move to Hollywood did wonders for the Beckham brand.
Even among Tinseltown's rich and famous, Beckham and wife
Victoria are A-list celebrities and tabloid staples. They will
attend Prince William's April 29 marriage to Kate Middleton and
can be spotted courtside at Los Angeles Lakers games with good
friend Tom Cruise.
What impact Beckham has had on growing the sport is less
certain as MLS attendance and television ratings have remained
flat over his first four years.
Still, Beckham did not hesitate to label his MLS stint a
success, pointing to franchises in Vancouver, Seattle, Montreal
and Portland that sprouted up during his stay and the trickle
of big names to North America like France's Thierry Henry.
"The (level of play) has definitely gone up," said Beckham.
"If you look at how improved team performance is and the way
the league has gone, the way franchises that have come into the
"Things have improved the last few years, especially when
you've got players like Thierry Henry coming into the league it
can only do good for the sport in this country."
While Beckham made it clear he is pleased with what he has
accomplished he did not rule out remaining with the Galaxy
beyond this season, saying there is still much work to be done
and trophies to be won.
The midfielder has also not abandoned hope of again playing
for England in a World Cup and said representing his country at
the 2012 London Olympics held immense lure.
"I haven't made any decision about what I'm going to do
after this year," said Beckham. "I feel fit, I feel good in
games, I feel as if I am performing well.
"At the end of the day I'm 35 and I'm getting older so
we'll have to wait and see... I still love the game and I
still feel fit so at the moment there is no reason for me to
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