Beckhamania seems to be alive and well

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Beckhamania lives!

Whatever it is that makes David Beckham great box office in the twilight of his career, extends to Edmonton.

After two weeks of Edmonton Eskimos season ticket holders having front-of-the-line privileges for the May 13 game in Commonwealth Stadium featuring the former Manchester United and England international, tickets went on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. yesterday.

"We sold 3,000 in the first hour to put us over the 20,000 mark," said Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi.

"With what we've seen so far, I'd like to believe we could get to 60,000," he said of selling out Commonwealth Stadium for the game involving Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy and his Whitecaps.

Last year Beckham and the Galaxy drew 48,172 in the same game against the Whitecaps in B.C. Place.

DWINDLING CROWDS

While there's been some debate about Beckhamania coming to an end with a crowd of 34,000 in a 65,000 stadium in a 2-1 loss to FC Seoul in Korea last weekend and a crowd of 10,000 in a 3-0 win over Shanghai-Hong Kong United in a 40,000-seat stadium in Shanghai Wednesday, it looks like he still has sizzle in Edmonton.

Beckham played all 90 minutes and created the Galaxy's only goal in the game in Korea while Carlos Ruiz scored all three in Shanghai with Beckham setting up the first one and leaving the game after 70 minutes with a minor injury.

The Galaxy is scheduled to play the same team in the final game of the Asia tour today.

The contract with the Galaxy provides that Beckham must be healthy and play at least 45 minutes in Edmonton or the game will be postponed to a later date as was the case when he was injured and the original date for the game last year in Vancouver had to be rescheduled.

Beckham is expected to be big news between now and the time he plays in Edmonton when he's expected to play his 100th game for England. Only six players in history have been capped 100 times for the English national side.

Lenarduzzi said if Edmonton meets or beats the crowd count from Vancouver it's going to put the two markets in excellent position to bring in major international teams for games in both cities.

"It really reinforces our plan to attempt to bring in the very top club teams in the world - Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool for example - to play games in both cities. There's only about 10 teams in the world, I think, which could fill both stadiums.

"What we did in Vancouver and what it looks like we are now going to do in Edmonton is really going to prove to the soccer world that these two cities are big-time markets."

Recently the Premiership in England floated the concept of playing two regular-season games at neutral sites and received opposition from FIFA, the international governing body.

WHAT WILL BE ..

"Who knows how that will turn out. If you told me two years ago we'd be playing a game against David Beckham in Edmonton and selling tickets like this, I'd have thought the chances of that happening would be very remote.

"Whatever happens we're going to continue to move forward. We believe we can put together a package with Edmonton and Vancouver which could attract these types of teams to come to Canada.

"It certainly positions Canada with these two cities to be involved. When these teams do come over, they prefer to do it in two-game sets."

Lenarduzzi says they're thinking creative.

It has been suggested one thing that could be done is create a situation where a team could come over and have a training camp at locations like Banff or Victoria with the promotion paying for the camp.

"Our idea is to do this sort of thing on a regular basis."

Whatever.

First things first.

"So far, everything has met our expectations. The Eskimos have been great to work with," he said of the football team, which is also a stakeholder in the event.


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