Beck's golden boot in the Dome

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

B.C. Place becomes Beckham Place at 7 p.m. tonight when English soccer superstar David Beckham makes his Canadian debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps (GOL TV/Team 1040).

The Los Angeles Galaxy franchise player is starring for the first half -- and maybe more -- in what could be British Columbia's best-attended sporting event of 2007.

"People pay a lot of money to come and see these exhibition games," Beckham said at a news conference yesterday. "They all mean the same to me, whether I'm playing in the European championships or World Cups or friendlies."

Not since Brazilian legend Pele's first Vancouver visit with the New York Cosmos in 1975 has a single icon of the world's most popular sport captured the city's attention. More than 42,000 tickets were sold as of yesterday morning. The game was postponed from Oct. 3 after Beckham's Aug. 29 knee sprain.

Beckham recovered in time for L.A.'s 5-1-1 late-season rally, but the 9-14-17 club fell short of Major League Soccer playoffs. Vancouver-raised head coach Frank Yallop quit Sunday to join the San Jose Earthquakes. Interim coach Trevor James' roster includes American international forward Landon Donovan and midfielder Cobi Jones, as well as Halifax defender Ante Jazic and Coquitlam-raised ex-Whitecap midfielder Kevin Harmse.

Beckham, whose job is to turn the Galaxy into a winner and the MLS into a United States box office hit, is the reason for the game. He said his five-year contract (worth a reported $250 million) demonstrates his commitment to making the league world-class and his faith in soccer's American commercial breakthrough. But it's not about the money, he says.

"The game is important to me, I'd play for free," he declared.

"You could've told me that a couple months ago," Galaxy president and general manager Alexei Lalas interrupted.

"That's off the record," smiled Beckham, who pledged to return here Dec. 2, when wife Victoria kicks off the Spice Girls' reunion tour at General Motors Place.

THE BECKHAM FILE

- DAVID ROBERT JOSEPH BECKHAM

Midfielder, #23

Born May 2, 1975, in Leytonstone, England

Six-foot, 165 lbs

- CLUB CAREER GP G

Manchester United (1993-2003) 265 62

Real Madrid (2003-2007) 116 13

Los Angeles Galaxy (2007) 9 3

- INTERNATIONAL CAREER

England ('96-present) 97 17

- ACHIEVEMENTS

During the Beckham era, Manchester United won six Premier League, two F.A. Cup and one European Cup championships. The two-time runner-up for FIFA world player of the year (1999 and 2001) is the only England player to score in three consecutive World Cups (France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006). Joined Los Angeles Galaxy on July 13 after signing reported five-year, $250 million contract on Jan. 11, 2007.

- PERSONAL

Wife: Victoria "Posh" Adams; occupation: Spice Girl; married July 4, 1999, at Luttrellstown Castle, Ireland. Three sons: Brooklyn Joseph (born: March 4, 1999), Romeo James (b: Sept. 1, 2002) and Cruz David (b: Feb. 20, 2005).

IN HIS OWN WORDS

- "I was lucky to have people around me, parents around me, family around me that were strong for me at that time. At some point it was about me growing up and believing in myself and having the strength to come through adversity."

- On recovering from the 1998 World Cup ejection against Argentina and being blamed for England's elimination.

- "When there were great stars like Pele, [Franz] Beckenbauer, [George] Best, so many other players, it was a short-term thing. With me it's a long term thing."

- Why Beckham believes he can make soccer a commercial hit in the U.S. after previous international imports failed.

- "It's great to be in a position where you can help people ... people talk about the financial side, people talk about the status side, the celebrity side, but there's nothing better than being able to make a difference."

- What Beckham says is the true benefit of being a soccer star.


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