Beckham gets last laugh

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Nestled high in the northeast corner of BMO Field, the vocal throng of West Ham supporters is not shy about exhibiting its support for the beloved powder-blue clad Hammers.

And their loathing of David Beckham.

As Beckham's name is announced during the pre-game introductions of the starting lineup for the Major League Soccer all-stars, a mixture of cheers and boos swirl around the jammed stadium.

There is no such waffling among the Hammers fans, however. In Section 104, where the West Ham fans have congregated, there are nothing but jeers and colourful language aimed at the former Manchester United star.

(For the record, they didn't have very nice things to say about the Spice Girls either. Good thing Victoria Beckham was not around to hear such comments).

Beckham is used to that treatment from Hammer Nation. Having grown up just five kilometres from West Ham's home field of Upton Park, he is viewed by these soccer zealots as a traitor -- even if he now plays a world away in Los Angeles for the Galaxy.

"I even remember getting a bit of stick from their fans on a few occasions," Beckham recently remarked on his web site.

Keeping that in mind, you can understand why last night's tilt between his MLS all-stars and West Ham was much more than just a glorified exhibition game for Beckham, easily the highest-profile personality in the North American-based league.

Beckham wanted to beat the team that played just a stone's throw away from his childhood home. In the process, he wanted to prove to the English soccer establishment that, while MLS has a long way to go, it is not the bush league it is portrayed to be.

In that respect, Becks likely got his point across last night, at least to some extent.

With the pace of the match increasing as the game went on, Beckham's MLS all-stars posted a highly entertaining 3-2 victory over the Hammers, leaving the record BMO Field crowd of 20,844 more than satisfied with the bang they got for their bucks.

Asked if he heard the razzing coming from his old, ah, friends in Section 104, Beckham broke into a wry smile.

"Well, yeah," he finally admitted. "The first time I ever played (West Ham) was a lot tougher than tonight though. It's always hostile when you play them."

Even in Toronto.

"That's one of the reasons it was important to win," he said, adding that "it's always great to see the way their fans travel in support of their team."

While he failed to find the back of the net himself, Beckham was a threat all night.

With each free kick that he lined up for, a buzz would swirl through the stadium. With each bending cross that would rocket off his famous right foot, a chorus of oohs and aahs filled the Exhibition grounds.

Finally, in the 27th minute, came that highly-anticipated moment of Becks magic, a cheeky no-look back pass to teammate Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who immediately fed Christian Gomez for the first MLS goal, tying the game at 1-1.

"David and I worked well together," said Blanco, the Mexican national who scored the second MLS goal en route to being name the game's MVP.

ELECTRIC

As day turned to night, the atmosphere turned electric. With all the flashbulbs going off every time Beckham lined up for a corner kick, you would have thought you were at a rock concert.

"For most of us, that would be surreal," said striker Dean Ashton, who scored both West Ham goals. "But I'm sure David is used to it."

Believe it or not, Beckham admitted having a few butterflies, given the fact he was aware that the MLS all-stars had entered the game having come out on top in their three previous matches against British-based teams.

"I was nervous," he said. "I was hoping we would win the game."

They did exactly that, much to the chagrin of the Becks Bashers in Section 104.


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