The normally mild-mannered David Beckham was involved in a heated confrontation with fans of his own team as he returned to the field in Los Angeles last night. The former England captain was jeered and at one point attempted to jump over a barrier to remonstrate with a section of the crowd which had hung up banners labeling him a ‘fraud’, and telling him to ‘go home’. He pointed his finger and had to be held back by security staff members who also needed to restrain an angry fan who rushed towards the footballer.
The 34-year-old, who signed a deal in January 2007, has upset fans by missing the first five games of the Major League Soccer season to take holidays with wife Victoria in France and the Seychelles to recover from his exertions playing for Milan. A number of fans, the so-called LA Riot Squad, booed Beckham every time he touched the ball and made signs that read ‘Go Home Fraud’ and ’23: Repent’ in reference to his shirt number. Their anger was probably in reference to Beckham preference to stay in Milan rather than return to America, stating that the standard of play was far higher and improved his chances of continuing to play for England. Tensions were high
After the referee blew the whistle for half-time, Beckham appeared to make a ‘come on’ gesture towards fans after they relentlessly taunted him. In response, one man left his seat, jumped down onto the pitch and attempted to run towards Beckham. Security intervened and escorted Beckham to the changing room, while removing the fan from the pitch. Despite the incident, Beckham returned in the second half and hugged several of his former AC Milan team-mates before gesturing towards the rowdy section of the crowd. A line of yellow-jacketed security staff stood below the supporters in the trouble area as a precaution.
The majority of the fans have been great,’ Beckham said afterwards in comments broadcast on Sky Sports News. On the boos, he added: ‘It’s to be expected. Sometimes it goes beyond it. I tried to shake one of the guy’s hands but he didn’t want any of it. That’s the way it is.’
The fans said it was Beckham who egged them on. Ricardo Vigil, 28, from Los Angeles, said: ‘So Beckham comes over here, he starts saying “Come down here, come down here”, so our guy went down there. He called out one of our guys. We boo a lot of players – they don’t come out and challenge our guys. We’re just here as fans. A security guy got our guy and security held him back. He was like “Come here, come here, come here”. He instigated that. We were a little upset. He betrayed our team but don’t come calling out one of our fans, that doesn’t happen. I don’t think he wants to be here, I think he should go.’
Eric Lewis, 43, also from LA, said: ‘He called the guy out. He called out a drunk fan. How stupid is that? He’s the player, he’s the professional. He should have kept himself under control and he didn’t. He shouldn’t have done that, it was dumb. The guy was inebriated, Beckham should have known that. For a player to call out a fan is ridiculous, it’s stupid.’
But Shawn Cervantez, 22, from Sacramento, said Beckham did not appear to be looking for a confrontation when he approached the fans. She said: ‘As soon as half time started he came over here and it appeared to me he was coming over here to make amends. He had his hand out to shake a hand and then one of the guys was giving him the middle finger and I guess they got aggressive with each other and the guy came over the wall and started to attack him. It was unbelievable, really. I think that their complaints are legitimate but I think that’s a bit much. Their signs are asking him to prove to them that he’s here and that they want him to ask for forgiveness. I think that was his gesture when he came over here.’
Regardless of what happened on the pitch, Beckham had a huge support network of A-list stars that turned out to cheer him on in the stands. Sitting in his luxury box was his wife, Victoria Beckham along with their three sons, Tom Cruise with daughter Isabella, Kate Beckinsale with husband Len Wiseman, and Simon Fuller. The Hollywood crowd didn’t appear fazed by the wild crowds and were seen clapping and cheering from the stands.