Jan 11, 2007

Last of the Faux-hicans

David Beckham and wife Victoria (aka Posh) have landed. The world's most famous footballer (sorry Eli Manning) and his pinup wife will live out their celebrity-soaked lives in Los Angeles. Becks has signed an agreement to come to the U.S. at the age of 32 to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The usually-cynical English press was surprisingly chipper about the whole thing:

How intelligent of Beckham to leave European football at the age of 32. The timing of his decision means that he will enter Major League Soccer at a time when he is still capable of giving competitive performances at the highest level. Philip Anschutz, the owner of Los Angeles Galaxy (and much else besides), can be confident he has secured the signature not only of a celebrity whose aura alone can sell a million replica shirts but of a player who will persuade a whole new audience to fall in love with the game itself.

It remains to be seen whether this will be just a redux of Pele's signing with the New York Cosmos in 1975 -- a doomed attempt to market soccer in the U.S. I think this should definitely create a buzz for the sport, though. It's not every day that a world class player (which Beckham fortunately still is) comes here to play professionally. In the long run, it will be interesting to see if this is the start of a larger trend toward a more globalized sports marketplace. Yes, the soccer world is pretty well integrated already, but the world's lone superpower (grrr, I'm really starting to hate that phrase) has never been on board.
We have been importing athletes, especially baseball players, from other countries for a few decades, but the overall profile of international sports is low here. Maybe this is a sign of change.

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