Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A City of Soccer Goes Mad for Beckham's Galaxy

Vancouver has always been a world-class city in the soccer world. Vancouver has been a home to greats such as the legendary Ferenc Puskas, Bobby Robson, and Peter Beardsley. We've had visits from the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, and Johan Cruyff. But it's been over 30 years since the Great Pele's visit that we've seen a classy global superstar like David Beckham.

There are sporting purists who would debate Beckham's place among the greats in the greatest game of all. To be honest, it's a good argument. But in sports there are athletes, like Tiger Woods and Wayne Gretzky, who transcend their game beyond their remarkable accomplishments. I can say beyond my doubt, Becks is one of these.

Over the years, I've seen David Beckham perform remarkable feats on the pitch (...sometimes particularly difficult for me, as a Manchester City fan). But I think it's worth looking beyond that. I think if you look through the Hollywood-style glamour, you'll see an footballer who plays with the same passion that you and I try to do. On my less skeptical days, I think he would do what he does just for the sheer love of the game.

At today's open practice, David Beckham signed every autograph...hundreds of them to say the least...most of them kids. He took on what most sports superstars would think was an unreasonable burden.

That alone was a breath of fresh air in the world of North American sport.

There's much in the press today about Beck's visit and the stadium...read on for more:

Vancouver Sun:

Soccer star David Beckham's press conference today at the Pan Pacific Hotel was packed. And BC Place Stadium may be the same on Wednesday when Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy play the Vancouver Whitecaps in an exhibition game that could have same impact, historically, on soccer here as Pele's famous visit with the New York Cosmos 30 years ago.

That game helped catapult Vancouver among the top markets in the North American Soccer League, which folded in 1984 even as professional soccer here continued. Beckham's visit, his ability to sell 50,000 tickets to an exhibition game, could add urgency to the Whitecaps' stadium project and, more importantly, raise this city's candidacy for a Major League Soccer franchise.

The Province:

"Yes, this is about Beckham but it's also a statement of how much this city needs and will support a world-class downtown outdoor facility...The plan was to have the stadium ready for the FIFA U-20 tournament this year, a golden opportunity to showcase this city to a worldwide audience.The opportunity was wasted and instead when the world tuned in it saw Swangard Stadium. The Canadian Soccer Association was also hoping to use the stadium as a strong selling point for this country to host the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. Last week Canada's bid lost out to Germany. No stadium, no tournament. "It was a factor," admits Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. "No question."

The red tape could take another 18 months but the Vancouver Whitecaps are optimistic both can be done much sooner. It means the waterfront stadium could be finished as early as 2010. There is no good reason for it not to be. A recent Mustel survey shows 71 per cent of Vancouverites support it. It would also open the door for Major League Soccer to move to this city. If Toronto FC can average more than 20,000 fans per game at the new BMO Field, what can the Whitecaps do with the right facility in the right league?

"This is a soccer town," insists Lenarduzzi. In a perfect world that wouldn't need to be said.


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