Beckham's China tour raises skepticism
Updated: 2013-03-24 14:56
WUHAN - Football superstar David Beckham continued his China tour in the central city of Wuhan amid enthusiastic cheering Saturday, but many wonder if it is just some sort of publicity stunt for Chinese football which is battling to recover from corruption and match-fixing scandals.
The former England captain is on a five-day visit to three Chinese cities as a "global ambassador" for the Youth Football Program in China and the Chinese Super League (CSL), the country's top-flight league, while his current club Paris Saint-Germain are on a break.
The new appointment is seen as an attempt by the CSL to further popularize itself home and abroad and inspire young people to participate in the sport, after its image had been tarnished by a string of corruption and match-fixing scandals that resulted in dozens of referees, officials and players being jailed or banned.
Beckham's schedule in Beijing, Qingdao and Wuhan included visits to local schools and football clubs, brief kickabouts with young students - still wearing his suit, tie and shiny formal shoes - as well as news conferences.
From airports to hotels and stadiums, security was tight and crowds of fans who had gathered hours before his arrival shouted and waved banners bearing his portrait and words such as "Little Becks, we love you."
At news conferences, the 37-year-old tried to dodge questions about the scandals and his earnings from the ambassadorship. Instead, he reiterated that his focus was on educating children and developing the sport at grassroots level.
"What has gone on in the past? I am not a politician so I have nothing to do with it," he said in Beijing. "I am not here to clear up anything. I am here to educate the children and give them a chance of becoming professional footballers."