I apologize for the lack of updates (not that anybody reads this, really) in the past few days. I sure was caught in the whirlwind of the LA Galaxy being in Manila last week. Sure, the tickets to the match may not have been sold out, but it’s David Freaking Beckham we’re talking about here. One of this generation’s iconic football heroes. And one of the geddam hottest men alive.
I will share a piece that I wrote for Pinoyfootball.com, but of course, as this is my blog, I am going to add a few more wisecracks and photos.
Chasing David Beckham, On and Off the Pitch
On the Pitch
When David Beckham opened the goal-scoring in the much-awaited friendly between the LA Galaxy and the Philippine National Team, there was a pregnant pause from the crowd before the thousands gathered at the Rizal Memorial Stadium erupted into wild cheers.
It was a page taken off the classic Beckham books—the English midfielder sweetly curling the ball in the top right corner of the goal, just slightly out of reach of the Philippines’ goalkeeper Ed Sacapaño.
This is what most people at the stadium paid thousands of pesos for—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of this generation’s football icons display his skills against our fabled national team.
Considering the status of football in the Philippines just a year ago, this match was indeed a dream come true for both the players and fans alike. That Beckham and the rest of LA Galaxy were actually playing in Manila was a validation of just how high the status of football was elevated in a span of one year.
While football in the Philippines has made significant strides in the last year, playing against LA Galaxy, the 2011 MLS Cup champions, exposed the weaknesses of the Philippine National Team. Yet, you never walk away from a 6-1 final scoreline without taking a few points.
To the national team’s credit, the boys have kept up with the visitors in the first half of the match, keeping the score at a decent 2-1 at halftime. Still, it is apparent that LA Galaxy were not playing at full throttle, and the Azkals did not pressure them as much. There was also a lot of space between the midfield and the back four, and the likes of Landon Donovan and Mike Magee were sure to capitalize on this (you know full well this wasn’t at full throttle when Donovan would elect to pass the ball to a teammate, when he could have easily scored).
LA Galaxy were calm, purposeful, and played selflessly. In contrast, the Azkals were rather slow on the counterattacks, but they scrappily attempted to keep pace—except the finishing was not always there. Phil Younghusband displayed his skills playing against his childhood hero, but struggled in his finishing. He did, however, in the closing minutes of the first half, benefit from an assist from Angel Guirado and beat both A.J. DeLaGarza and Josh Saunders to score the Philippines’ lone goal in the match.
The dream may have easily turned into a nightmare for the Philippines in the second half. Then again, when it’s David Beckham figuring into the play, it can never be a nightmare—a brilliantly taken corner kick, with the ball headed by Todd Dunivant to Robbie Keane, who easily sent it home—all shortly after the second half started (and as a spectator from the blue bleachers, Beckham taking that corner kick with cameras instantaneously flashing from the green bleachers was the scene from this game that will be forever etched in my mind—and this is why the match has been cheekily called the Dream Cup).
Unfortunately for the Philippines, our defense vanished from that point.
LA Galaxy never shifted from the second gear of playing—it’s just that the Azkals hardly showed up in the second half. Adam Cristman beat our defenders in the two goals that he scored. Our strikers hardly had any touches to the ball—and when they did, the visitors were quick on defense to easily snuff out the threats.
The second half displayed just how outclassed the Philippine National Team was. Every pass was sent with a Hail Mary, which was a galaxy away from Beckham’s master class. Beyond ogling at the man’s good looks and tattoos, David Beckham’s passing was impeccable—he knew exactly where his teammates were, and he created opportunities for them.
That our players had a chance to chase David Beckham on the pitch for the seventy-five minutes that he played was indeed a dream—yet, it was also a reminder of just how much work needs to be done in chasing his quality and class.
Off the Pitch
There’s a certain level of mania that came with the fact that David Beckham was in Manila. Women fawn over him, while men can only hope to be like him. Women and men (yes, men, admit it—you guys also tried to get onto his hotel floor) were jockeying to have a photograph with him or to have him sign jerseys (Phil Younghusband was obviously the first in line).
While the fanfare in Manila has been relatively subdued compared to other countries where football fanaticisms are at fever pitch on a regular basis, there’s no compromising on the Englishman’s security. To chase David Beckham is to risk heartbreak and disappointment, when attempts to secure an elusive photograph or signature could be met with rejection from his security escorts (or worse, from him).
With David Beckham’s usual midfield partner, Juninho, who was injured in Indonesia, and hence, did not suit up for the friendly in Manila. Juninho was so nice and trusting—I was having an LA Galaxy shirt signed, and he handed over his wallet to me, so that he could sign. Oh, and he smelled like baby soap.
To chase David Beckham is to pray for a miracle as you drive straight through a brick wall. Outside of a VIP party and under the comfort of his beanie, the man will not respond—even if you scream, “Baby peaches, I love you!” (in reference to an interview with Ellen DeGeneres about how his skin is soft like baby peaches). You risk having the man literally walk away from you the moment that he thinks you’re panicking in his presence—even if you were really panicking over a felt-tip pen that you couldn’t find.
It’s quite understandable, though. If he reacted to one, it may just cause mass hysteria and a subsequent security migraine, even if it involved less than a handful of people. Sometimes, fans just have to find comfort in the fact they’ve seen in person the legend that they have admired from afar. You can wait at airports and hotels for hours, and sometimes, you just have to accept the few seconds that someone like David Beckham would walk by you.
Sometimes, fans just need to console themselves with the thought that David Beckham probably saw them, or slightly better, noticed them. As for the baby peaches comment—he probably heard it and was trying hard not to laugh.
Chasing David Beckham—admit it, you’ve thought about it, or better yet, tried it.
As for the baby peaches part, I was not kidding about that. Thank you Cla for sharing the video (grabbed it from Facebook!).