Beckham says he's focused on Galaxy, not Hollywood

January 13, 2007

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- David Beckham's focus will be on the Los Angeles pitch, not the Hollywood glitz.

Forgetting for the moment that Beckham's wife, Victoria, is a former Spice Girl, that they rank Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes among their best friends, and that one of Los Angeles' premier talent agencies negotiated his new contract with the MLS' Galaxy, Beckham is trying to concentrate on soccer.

"I'm coming there not to be a superstar," the 31-year-old Beckham said Friday via satellite from Madrid, Spain. "I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things.

"With me, it's about football. I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football."

Reporters were not allowed to pose questions. Instead, a moderator did the asking.

Dressed in a black suit with white shirt and black tie, Beckham said he hopes to work with American youngsters and keep them interested in soccer when they are finished with youth leagues.

He's joining a so-so team in Major League Soccer, considered sort of bush league by fans in the more fervent soccer countries around the world.

"I'm not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve," Beckham said. "Baseball, basketball, American football, they've been around.

"But I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference."

Tim Leiweke of AEG, the sports and entertainment company that runs the Galaxy, believes Beckham can make a huge difference.

"Certainly, he will bring an audience, a fan base and an intensity to our sport that we've never had," Leiweke said.

The AEG president said Beckham is far from done.

"David is still a very good player," Leiweke said. "Peyton Manning in football, the other football, Allen Iverson in basketball and Tiger Woods in golf are all the same age as Beckham."

Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas, who was one of America's best-known players, said the decision to sign Beckham "was based on soccer."

"At the end of the day, this team needs to win on the field," Lalas said.

Lalas said he did not think Beckham should be blamed for the lack of success by either Real Madrid or England's national team.

"It's an easy way out to blame David," Lalas said. "And to be fair, he has a target on him. And that's OK, that's the pressure he plays under. But the mediocrity of different teams at different times and the blame that's put on him, I think that's unfair.

"He's 31 years old and I think he has some of his best soccer ahead of him. And he's facing a new challenge. What could be a fresher start for him than to come to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy?"

Beckham plans to fulfill his contract with Real Madrid before heading for the United States. He is not expected to join the Galaxy, whose MLS season begins in April, until August.

His five-year deal with the team, one of three MLS franchises owned by AEG, is believed to be for around $10 million a year. His representatives have said that outside endorsements could run the total worth of the package to $250 million.

Beckham mentioned that he has watched Cobi Jones play in the World Cup and now he will line up beside him with the Galaxy.

Jones, still a solid player at 36, believes Beckham will have a positive impact on his teammates.

"I know if I'm running around the field with a David Beckham, I want to impress him," Jones said. "I want him to go, `Hey, this guy is good.' I think it's going to give us a credibility and a perspective.

"A lot of people don't have a perspective of how good these guys in the MLS are," he said.

Though he won't immediately be besieged as he is in Europe, he has been gaining attention in the United States since the movie "Bend It Like Beckham."

"I came to L.A. about four years ago, and I was walking around and I got a few people coming up to me and recognizing me," Beckham said. "But then I went back about a year ago, and when I looked out the window in the house I was staying in and there were 45 paparazzi cars outside.

"I realize I'm not as recognized in the U.S. as I am around Europe, around other parts of the world. But hopefully, playing for the Galaxy will change that."

His friendship with Cruise and Holmes should make adjusting to life in Los Angeles easier for him and his wife.

"That's going to be a big help to us, to have friends when we arrive in L.A.," Beckham said. "I talked with him for about an hour last night and an hour the night before.

`I" told him there might be an announcement, and asked him for his advice, as well. He's a very wise man and a very good friend of mine. To have his experience and have him explain some things to me, that's a big favor. He couldn't speak any higher than what he was saying about L.A."

Beckham said his wife and their three children aren't packed yet, and added with a grin, "It might take a while with Victoria."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press