x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

David Beckham feels at home where he's abroad

A country without kings is happy to receive the most humble-born Brit like royalty, especially if she can pull off a size-zero sheath dress and he can curl a free kick into the corner of the net from 30 yards.

David Beckham, centre, has found a second homeland in California, spurning Paris Saint-Germain's millions to remain with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
David Beckham, centre, has found a second homeland in California, spurning Paris Saint-Germain's millions to remain with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Aside perhaps from King George III and Lord Cornwallis, America has been good to Britons.

Even after waves of global immigration subsequent to the 13 original English colonies, Britons remain the largest contributor to the US gene pool, at nearly 23 per cent. If anyone should feel welcome in the States, it would be a Briton.

Which does not fully explain why England's David Beckham turned down a reported US$18.7 million (Dh68.7m), 18-month offer from Paris Saint-Germain in favour of re-signing with LA Galaxy, but gets us on the right track.

It remains a challenge, on this eastern side of the Atlantic, to wrap our minds around these concepts: Ligue 1 leaders PSG; the City of Light; $1m per month … and Beckham returning to Major League Soccer.

Sacre bleu.

The French were so certain Beckham would be winging his way to Paris that serious media outlets published details of the welcome PSG and the capital would roll out. It involved a palace or two and a route up the Champs Elysees, but what shoes Victoria Beckham might have worn had not been worked out.

Beckham's handlers also spoke of offers from other European football citadels, including unnamed Premier League sides.

Yet there he was a few days ago, introduced again by the Galaxy, signed up for another two years at, perhaps, $15m but maybe much less, if we recall that the $250m, five-year deal he allegedly got to join the Galaxy in 2007 turned out to be $32.5m in actual football salary.

So, why would one of the world's most famous athletes remain in a second-rate league, playing a sport that is, at best, No 4 among American sports fans?

Cynics would suggest that some of it is about the vanity of a 36-year-old footballer. At PSG, Beckham would be a famous face; in MLS he remains a standout.

Beckham in the past two seasons became genuinely productive with the Galaxy and appreciated for what he does on the pitch. He was second in MLS in assists and became the field general of a championship side, certainly an exotic concept to those who long ago dismissed him as a one-footed, one-trick, free-kick pony.

"Los Angeles" is among the reasons for his new deal.

Victoria, remember, was one of the Spice Girls, and the Los Angeles/Hollywood/Beverly Hills axis is where starlets often go to ground. Deals get done there, reputations are burnished, nips and tucks of famous faces can be handled discretely and expertly.

Los Angeles also offers arm's-length distance for a celebrity who simply wants to be left alone. It is not unusual to see a dressed-down A-list actor studying the selections at the Trader Joe's grocery market in Brentwood, or casually mingling with fans at a Los Angeles Lakers game - and jaded Angelenos carefully ignoring them.

Also not to be easily dismissed are Beckham's claims that he remained in Los Angeles for reasons of family. His three sons, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, are 12, 9 and six, and already in school. His new daughter, Harper Seven (a Disney character plus Beckham's England shirt number) could be in preschool before her father's new Galaxy contract is up.

Factor in business opportunities, including the contractual right to buy a franchise in the rapidly expanding MLS, spectacular weather, pliable AEG executives who would be happy to let him wander off to the London Olympics for a month, and now we are getting closer to understanding the inexplicable.

The final factor? The whole English-in-America thing.

Beckham's oft-mocked cockney accent apparently brands him as inescapably low-rent in class-conscious Britain. And, apparently, his descendants might need generations to escape their East Ender roots.

All this puzzles Americans.

In Los Angeles and the US, most English accents sound alike. Take it from a Yank; few of us can tell a Yorkshireman from a Geordie from a BBC newsreader. Really.

If anything, Americans are inclined to assume education, intelligence and breeding in anyone with a British accent.

A country without kings is happy to receive the most humble-born Brit like royalty, especially if she can pull off a size-zero sheath dress and he can curl a free kick into the corner of the net from 30 yards.

Beckham may be just the latest to realise that, for an Englishman, life in America can be a pretty sweet gig.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae