Pele to Beckham: Grow up

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:05 PM ET

Pele is not impressed with Becks.

The legendary soccer superstar has blasted David Beckham as being "more pop star than player" in his belated season with the L.A. Galaxy, which is scheduled to play Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sunday.

Beckham is nursing a sore ankle and did not accompany the team to Dallas yesterday for a Superliga tournament game against FC Dallas. And he is not likely to play against Toronto.

In an interview published yesterday in a German newspaper, Pele cautioned the former captain of England's World Cup team that he can't party like a playboy and expect to play to the level that he will see in Major League Soccer.

"David Beckham is more of a pop star than a player," Pele told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The 66-year-old former striker urged Beckham not to be distracted by the Hollywood lifestyle and to be at his best physical condition when he does play his first MLS game.

"I know the level of play in that league, it is very evenly balanced, and the fans will demand a lot from a star like him," Pele said. "He can stroll through Hollywood on his days off and when he has no training."

TFC manager Mo Johnston agreed with Pele about the level of play in the MLS but said he is certain that Beckham wants play at his best when he finally makes his North American debut.

And Johnston had hoped it would be this Sunday.

"Listen, David Beckham is still one of the greatest players in the world," Johnston said. "I know he wants to play. He's like our Danny (Dichio), who, even though he has got an injured back, is still willing to go out and play."

Johnston said TFC fans who have supported the club with sellouts in each of its first eight league games deserve to see Beckham on Sunday.

MEANS A LOT

"It would mean a lot," Johnston said. "And (Galaxy) is struggling right now so I'm sure they would like to see him on the pitch as well."

But Galaxy coach Frank Yallop -- who hasn't officially ruled Beckham out of Sunday's game -- didn't sound optimistic. The former Canadian national team manager said it's more important for Beckham's ankle to heal than to satisfy his many fans with an appearance in a game that might hurt him further.

"Sorry. I mean, really, what can you say?" Yallop said in yesterday's editions of the L.A. Times. "The fans here want to see him as well, and they haven't seen him yet, except for 10 minutes. It is what it is. It's reality. Unfortunately, that's sports. You can't guarantee a guy's going to be playing, because of injuries."

Meanwhile, Johnston confirmed a Sun Media story yesterday that the club was interested in getting 22-year-old Grimsby, Ont., goaltender Josh Wagenaar into a TFC uniform to replace injured starter Greg Sutton.

"He's definitely one of the 'keepers we would like to have," Johnston said. "We should have it all finalized by (tomorrow)."

Wagenaar is under contract to Dutch first division's ADO den Haag. Other goalkeepers on Johnston's radar are with European clubs.

"We hope we can get (a goalkeeper) on loan," Johnston said. "So that we wouldn't have to pick up his contract."

It remains to be seen if that will happen with ADO.


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