- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

CARSON, Calif. — Before David Beckham can make America love soccer, he has to get used to soccer in America.

Like what to call it.

It’s football to the rest of the world, and the superstar from England kept getting “soccer” stuck in his throat when he was introduced yesterday amid confetti and screaming fans as the Los Angeles Galaxy’s new $32 million man.

“I’ve called it football my whole life,” Beckham said, smiling. “Calling it soccer is not a problem for me. Well, at the moment it is because I keep getting it mixed up, but at some point I’ll get it after a couple of weeks.”

And no, Beckham said, he doesn’t expect Americans to change their ways; he said he wants to adapt to his new country’s lingo.

Beckham will be living in Beverly Hills and working at Home Depot — Center, that is. The Galaxy’s stadium was stuffed with 5,000 fans and hundreds of reporters and photographers intent on recording every gesture and word uttered by him.

Six months of anticipation culminated with Beckham accepting his new number 23 jersey on a stage set up on the field with cannons shooting out blue, gold and white confetti.

“It’s nice to see so many fans, and I thank you for that,” he told the crowd sweating under a hot sun. “Now my family have moved to Los Angeles, something we’re looking forward to, something we’re very proud of, and in our life everything’s perfect.”

But he still has a job to do.

The Galaxy is paying Beckham $32.5 million over five years to turn the struggling team into a winner and promote soccer in the United States, where it badly trails football — the American variety — basketball and baseball in popularity. The Galaxy is next to last in the Western Conference with a 3-5-4 record.

“I think soccer in America has a lot of potential, just maybe something is missing to take it to another level, and I’m hoping I’m going to be part of that,” said Beckham, whose playing debut is set for July 21.

“There’s been expectations all the way through my career, and at the moment this is a big one. Hopefully, I can handle it in the right way.”

The 32-year-old midfielder joins the Major League Soccer team at a time when his career is on the upswing. In January, when he signed with the Galaxy, he had been benched by Real Madrid and was out of favor on the England national team.

In the ensuing months, Becks helped Real Madrid win the Spanish League title and was recalled to the national team, where he has made key contributions and is expected to continue to play between Galaxy games.

He said he has no regrets about leaving Europe.

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