Kansas City, Kan. Waving foam fingers and posters in the air, fans lined up en masse outside the gates of the CommunityAmerica Ballpark before the Kansas City Wizards-L.A. Galaxy game Saturday night.
The stadium was packed with a sellout crowd of 11,906 fans, clutching give-away blue and white hand-clappers and screaming their heads off. Three teenage girls, holding their tickets so tightly that they were almost rolled up into a ball, couldn’t help but shamelessly point even as the national anthem played in the background.
It was no secret whom they came to see.
Amid all the foghorns and blaring music, and, yes, some boos, the noise level reached its apex when David Beckham, midfielder for the L.A. Galaxy, was introduced.
In the 1-1 tie with the Wizards (5-6-6), Beckham earned his first assist since returning to the Galaxy in July, off a pass to Landon Donovan.
The Wizards’ goal was their first after three scoreless games, and the shot by Claudio Lopez was nothing short of brilliant. But undeniably, the most notable presence on the pitch was Beckham.
Beckham, who returned to the Galaxy after spending time on loan to AC Milan, has drawn huge crowds ever since he arrived in the United States. As one of the big names in soccer, one of his jobs is to help increase the popularity of the sport in the U.S. And it’s a role he embraces.
“I’m more than comfortable with that,” Beckham said. “You know, that’s one of the things that I knew I would be involved in when I first came over to America. I enjoy it. I enjoy being an ambassador. I’m an ambassador of different things, charities most of all. But to be an ambassador of the league and trying to promote the game and make the game bigger, it’s something I’m proud of. I hope I’m doing a good job. I seem to be making a few people happy.”
That much was obvious as Beckham took the first corner kick for the Galaxy (6-3-10). The stadium was never louder, rivaling even Beckham’s own introduction. Standing right in front of the heart of the Wizards’ fan section, Beckham kicked off to a flurry of neon signs proclaiming love for the Englishman and camera flashes that lit up even the early evening light.
“Tonight was a great atmosphere,” Beckham said. “It was a fun atmosphere. There was a lot of families in the stands, a lot of kids. And a lot of people who seemed to enjoy the game. I hope they went home happy and we thank them for the support because it was a really nice atmosphere to play in.”
It wasn’t all yelling girls and love posters for Beckham at CommunityAmerica stadium. The boos that seem to be following Beckham around lately were still present and he received taunts from a fan, ironically wearing an England shirt, when he went to sign autographs for some kids
“I went over and signed some because there were a lot of kids over there shouting before the game for me to go over and sign autographs. And obviously at the end of the game I did that. So I went over and signed a few autographs and there was the odd one or two not nice people over there. But you’re not going to get everyone that likes you…. He should definitely not be wearing the England shirt.”
But the booing was significantly more low-key than Beckham’s $1,000 confrontation with a fan at the AC Milan exhibition match last Sunday. And Beckham and Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena both appreciated the warm welcome.
“This place is a little easier than some of the other cities in the MLS,” Arena said. “I think anytime you have players people want to come out and see, it’s great. We respond to it favorably. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a pain, but it’s good that people recognize Beckham and Donovan.”