Monday, March 3, 2008

Seoul Boy Becks

Beckham at the post-match press conference
He came, he saw, he danced and drove his one direct free-kick into the wall. Overall, David Beckham’s trip to Seoul with LA Galaxy was a success though not quite a complete triumph.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star is, of course, big news in South Korea. However, not enough to fill more than half of Seoul’s 65,000 capacity World Cup Stadium when the MLS took on FC Seoul in an exhibition match on March 1.

Getting ready to kick-off

Organisers were disappointed with the turnout and put it down to cold weather. It is true that the American team arrived in a city blanketed by snow four days previously but the temperature had risen a few degrees above freezing on Saturday afternoon. Ticket prices were a bigger problem. The cheapest was around $32 – more than three times more than what entry to a K-League match would set you back.

The player did his promotional duties as professionally as one would expect and was followed around the city by a host of reporters.

He gave most of them the slip last Thursday evening when visiting a Seoul nightclub on Thursday evening. The 32 year-old headed to ‘Circle’ in the trendy Cheongdam district. The following day, 'Seoul Sports' described how “girls competed against each other to dance sexily” in front of him. Refusing to head to the VIP section, he was regaled with shouts of “sexy Beckham” to which, the reports went, he shyly said “thank you".

Beckham with fan in Seoul

Beckham wasn’t quite so polite on the pitch after being caught late by Lee Chung-yong. The ex-England skipper gave the young winger a mouthful and later exacted revenge by chopping Lee down. The referee went as if to produce a yellow card before realizing that it the day was all about Beckham.

Referee has words with Lee Chung-young

Lee, a player with a bright future, mostly outshone the LA Galaxy star on the pitch though Beckham played well. His crosses and set pieces created a number of chances for his team-mates, especially in the first half. All but one were wasted. Alan Gordon managed to smartly chest down and volley home one floated free-kick in the first half but new strike partner Carlos Ruiz was guilty of a missing a couple of sitters.

Beckham and Gullit

As the game progressed, the visitors looked tired. Beckham looked tired for most of the week. Seoul can be a draining high-energy city especially when there are many media and sponsor events to attend.

FC Seoul didn’t impress too much a week before the start of the new season. New big-money signing Dejan Damjanovic somehow missed from two yards as the K-League team enjoyed the better of the second half.

taking a corner

But as most FC Seoul games tend to do, the match finished in a draw. The tv broadcasters didn’t even bother to show the subsequent, slightly-pointless, penalty shootout. Beckham wellied his shot high into the net but four of his team-mates saw their shots saved by stand-in goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun, who looked increasingly bemused by his success.

Then it was all over. Perhaps it was telling that there were a lot more reporters in the post-match press conference than in the press box during the match.

Becks and the boys then headed onto Shanghai where he has to do it all again.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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