This week Hawaii was blessed with futbol…yes…futbol, football, or what Americans call soccer. I prefer futbol as it brings back warm memories of flipping through tv as a kid and landing on a Spanish network broadcasting a match taking place down south in Mexico or some other Latin nation. The passion of the announcer, taunts of the fans, the tackles, passes, headers, and the dives from the players, the long locks of hair bouncing off the shoulders of a far away star. And yes, the cries of “gooooooooooooooooooooo1!” sent shivers down my spine!
But those days pushed the curiosity into a passion and now I follow football regularly. I have been known to stay up late nights obsessed with the World Cup action and now that we have the Fox Soccer Channel, Saturday and Sunday mornings are filled with Torres and Ronaldo smoothing their way down the pitch for Liverpool and Manchester United.
You can only image the joy when I learned David Beckham would play soccer in our dumpy Aloha Stadium. Becks, along with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Houston Dynamos, Sydney FC, and Gamba Osaka played in the Pan Pacific Championship, a two day international tournament held here in Honolulu.
As I am a terribly addicted football nut, I couldn’t help but to be excited about having someone like Beckham play here…and me being the photographer extrodinare, I couldn’t wait to work the tournament.
The Associated Press had me on for the entire Beckham week and it started with great fan fair with Becks and the Galaxy arriving at the airport. The PR guys for the MLS set up the media just outside the terminal giving us full access to Beckham arriving and getting the traditional Hawaiian flower lei.
From there the soccer circus had several community events including a kid skills camp with Becks and other playing around with the kids. So many kids got the treat of their life as they got to kick the ball around with him…it makes me wonder if any of those young soccer players really knew who Beckham is or what history he created.
I think so many Americans only think of him as Mr. Posh Spice.
The tourney itself was not something I would call amazing soccer but play was decent and games spotted with great action. As Beckham is not close to retiring from international play, his role in the MLS is interesting if not controversial. His departure from the top leagues in European football to the MLS slightly mars his image as the MLS isn’t known for their amazing players or teams. Many critics stated Beckham was done and would not make another international for England and worse, he might start seeing play as a substitute for his then club Real Madrid. As any athlete knows, youth will always replace age.
The top MLS teams might only rank in 2nd or 3rd tiers of England and Europe. Yet there are great players and some games are quiet amazing. Sadly, many feel the MLS is the retirement league for European and Latin American stars.
Beckham’s play stood quiet still at times as he was not played the ball much and when he did get his foot on the ball it was only for his specialized crosses and set pieces. Sure, that is his specialty yet his lack of full on action made me wonder if either the Galaxy is a bad team and doesn’t know how to utilize him or the organzation keeps him safe from bad form players and injury. The Galaxy wouldn’t fare well if their multi-million dollar baby was done in with a knee injury or a Eduardo-style ankle break. Brutal that injury the poor Brazillian suffered the wee start of Aresnal’s game against Birmingham.
Watching Becks through my 400mm allowed me secret access to moods, emotions, frustrations, and quirkiness. I viewed him quiet frustrated as his beautiful curved kicks sailed to strikers who in my opinion, lacked the skills of a Rooney, Owen, or Lampard. Yet his decisions to move to the MLS seems more a decision based on a new Hollywood lifestyle he and his wife embraced rather than a man willing to play at the top leagues. I do imagine that $50 million a year contract does smooth things over yet watching him play in this lower tiered tournament brings frustration to me and obviously to him. I am certain many people who watched him in the glory days probably have similar feelings.
The tournament played out well and the star of the tournament was Gamba Osaka’s Bare. His four goal game against Houston in the final hopefully put him in the minds of the European leagues. The J-league is great but what great striker wouldn’t take a chance to play in the big leagues. Hopefully Gamba will reap a big windfall if Bare is taken by another team.
As far as Galaxy’s final game, Becks was full of emotions. Many smiles and frowns along with better play from him and his team. They defeated Sydney FC 2-1 and both goals came off of Beckham assists. It was a good time by all…maybe not as good as the Manchester United games he once played but good times.
After all, sports are an evolved form of entertainment. Sure Beckham was a bit of show as screams echoed throughout the stadium anytime he touched the ball…but what fan wouldn’t scream when The Edge plays a rift, or Bono hits a high note.
Its all just fun.
Gamba Osaka won the tournament whipping the Houston Dynamos 6-1. Bare was a bear. He was great to see…pure top form.
One of the funny highlights of the end of the Galaxy games was Becks pulling off his top and strutting around the field, tattoos and all. His presence is rock star like.
I will not hold my breath for another full on pro soccer tournament but maybe this will push me to travel and shoot a game or two elsewhere.