Beckham makes debut for Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- David Beckham began his daunting challenge to convert America into a soccer-mad nation with an uneventful 12-minute debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.

CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- David Beckham began his daunting challenge to convert America into a soccer-mad nation with an uneventful 12-minute debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.

Beckham got into the exhibition against Chelsea in the 78th minute, jogging onto the field amid huge cheers and a sea of camera flashes from the sold-out crowd of 27,000.

"The atmosphere is incredible," he said after Chelsea's 1-0 victory.

The 32-year-old midfielder spent most of the game on the bench because of a nagging left ankle injury.

There were cheers each time Beckham touched the ball, the highlight being a corner kick he took in stoppage time. After taking about 10 minutes to get loose on the sideline, he entered as a substitute for Alan Gordon, who slapped hands with the English superstar before Beckham took the field for the first time.


"I'm not fit. I haven't trained since I got here," he said. "But it's nice to be out there."

Chelsea captain John Terry scored in the 49th minute on a 19-yard shot that ricocheted off the right post and left post before caroming into the net.

Beckham got off the bench in the 66th minute to warm up, exciting fans who had waited most of the game to see him. He jogged up and down the sidelines and a roar went up when Beckham tapped an out-of-bounds ball back to the referee, his first kick of the night.

He briefly ran off the field with the Galaxy's trainer before returning and peeling off his warmup shirt to reveal his favored long-sleeved jersey on a warm night when the other players wore short sleeves.

Beckham's debut was crazy from the start. When he took his seat on the end of a metal bench, he was quickly surrounded by about 100 photographers pushing and shoving to get a shot.

He calmly took in the scene as the scrum furiously snapped away within inches of him before being shoved back by about 10 security guards. He chatted with teammate Peter Vagenas while the Galaxy's starting lineup on the field was all but ignored.

Beckham's wife Victoria, wearing her trademark huge black sunglasses, along with actress Katie Holmes and her infant daughter Suri, watched from a private box above the field. Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt was like a lot of spectators, attending her first soccer game.

Eva Longoria, minus new hubby Tony Parker, comedian Drew Carey, NBA star Kevin Garnett, movie producer Brian Grazer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and English actors John Hurt and Ray Winstone also made what were likely their first trips to Carson, a downright gritty suburb compared to the stars' usual haunt of Beverly Hills.


As expected, Beckham didn't start the game or join his new teammates in pre-game warmups.

Dressed in a blue pullover jersey, white shorts and knee-high white socks, Beckham sat hunched over watching the action and stood up to applaud a couple of near-miss scoring chances by his teammates.

With the game scoreless at halftime, he walked across the field waving to fans before disappearing into the tunnel.

Beforehand, Caesar Perini, a 22-year-old Galaxy season ticketholder, had said he would be fine if Beckham didn't play "because he's got a messed-up ankle."

His friend, 23-year-old Mario Miranda, said, "We play soccer, too, so we know how it is."

James Fast, an 11-year-old attending the game with his family, wore a No. 23 Beckham jersey and rattled off what he knew about the Galaxy's $32 million man.

"I know he was with Manchester United, then Real Madrid," said James, a soccer player himself. "He's amazing. He's going to be better than Landon Donovan."

Donovan is the Galaxy's captain and a stalwart on the U.S. national team.


Not everyone cheered the Galaxy. Chelsea of the English Premier League had its own blue-clad fans in a corner of the stadium.

In the two hours leading up to the game, fans sipped drinks in the shade at a bar on a plaza outside the stadium and checked out merchandise stands. A variety of Beckham T-shirts and jerseys were on sale, with the top price $100.

A few thousand even bothered to watch the warmup act, a game between Mexican club team Tigres UANL and Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Tigres won 3-0.

Shelley Ott, 41, of Van Nuys said it was worth shelling out $70 for her ticket whether or not Beckham played.

"Him walking by in the beginning, that will be enough," said Ott, who wore a Beckham jersey and carried five posters of him under her arm.

A red carpet was rolled out for the Beckhams' new Hollywood pals -- a roped-off area at the palm-lined suites entrance to the stadium. A handful of fans were gathered outside the ropes, along with the ever-present paparazzi.

Perini enjoyed the ramped-up atmosphere.

"We wish every game could be like this," he said.

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