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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
I've been a little bit sniffy about football in America in the past. With their 'marquee' players and unbridled enthusiasm for the spectacular, there's always been a doubt in my mind as to whether they really 'get' what football is all about. That is until now. I'm sure I can't be the only person whose response to those anti-Beckham protests was to leap into the air like Henry Higgins, shouting, "They've got it! By Jove, I think they've got it!"

Here in England, the general feeling towards Beckham's transfer machinations has been one of warm empathy. Why shouldn't he attempt to prolong his international career by splitting his time between Los Angeles and Milan? He's a dedicated and driven professional desperate for one more crack at the World Cup before he retires, who could possibly deny him that? England, and Beckham in particular, have just been given their answer. We may not give a damn about the fortunes of LA Galaxy, but their fans certainly do and it's the first real sign that the Americans have figured out football at last. You don't care about the bigger picture when it's your team who are getting the mucky end of the stick.

Beckham and his entourage arrived in Los Angeles on a wave of hype. England's former captain was going to be the saviour of the MLS, the adrenaline shot it needed to close the gap on the more traditional American sports. He was good-looking and decent, talented but humble. In fact, if you replaced the nasally British accent with something a little more 'homegrown', you had yourself an all-American hero. That's why the LA Galaxy fans are so angry, that's why they feel that they've been mislead and that's why, if I was one of them, I'd have been booing Beckham as well.

Imagine arriving at a party to find a generous spread of food and drink laid out by a charming and obliging hostess. You're warmly welcomed through the front door, handed a glass of something bubbly and you fall into conversation with like-minded souls. After an hour, your phone beeps with an SMS from a friend who works for a record label. There's a party at the studio, all sorts of naughtiness is expected and he can get you in for free if you jump in a cab now. An honourable man would want to stay at the party, a selfish man would want to scarper, but both would know the consequences of their actions. A warm welcome would be out of the question were you ever fortunate enough to be invited back.

I have always been a huge admirer of Beckham and the way that he has conducted himself throughout his career, but he has made an error of judgement in the way that he has treated his contractual obligations to LA Galaxy. His only saving grace was that instead of sulking until he got his own way, he was at least man enough to buy out a portion of that contract himself, but you try telling that to those fans,

No-one can blame him for wanting to play in the World Cup, but the fact is that he'll be a fringe player at best. There isn't a better set-piece specialist on the planet, but he's simply not quick enough to cope with 90 minutes of international football anymore. Pride has cost him his reputation, the only thing that he ever worked as hard on as he did his free-kicks. It turns out that Americans do 'get' football and, like fans all over the world, they know when someone is treating their support with disdain.