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Beckham will become ambassador for CSL as soccer recovers from scandals
David Beckham is coming to promote the Chinese Super League, but how far his "ambassadorship" role will go toward helping cure Chinese soccer's damaged image abroad remains to be seen.
Although the Chinese Football Association hasn't made the official announcement, Beckham's highly-anticipated China tour, in which he will be appointed the CSL's ambassador, was confirmed by the International Management Group.
"Yes, we are indeed organizing his visit to China as the ambassador," said an IMG official who asked to speak anonymously because the deal hasn't been announced.
IMG, a marketing partner of the CFA which linked the CSL with the British soccer star, refused to provide any more details about the impending visit.
"Everything, including the schedule and logistical arrangements, haven't been finalized. All the information will go public when the CFA makes an official announcement next week," the official said.
According to a Beijing Youth Daily report, the CFA expects Beckham to attend the opening ceremony of the 2013 CSL season on March 8 as the league celebrates the 20th anniversary of the country's top-tier league.
However, Beckham, who recently signed a five-month contract to play for top French club Paris Saint-Germain after his stint with US side Los Angeles Galaxy, is scheduled to play for PSG in the team's second leg of the round of 16 in the Champions League on March 7.
The report said Beckham would at least visit China in May if he had to play in the Champions League.
The IMG official said all reports so far were unconfirmed by the CFA and characterized them as misleading.
Neither the CFA's spokesman, Dong Hua, nor the CSL's PR officer, Liu Zhujia, answered calls from China Daily.
Hampered by match-fixing and other corruption scandals, Chinese soccer's international image has taken a nosedive, although high-profile imports to the league like former Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka of France and Cote d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba have drawn some overseas attention.
After a three-year investigation, the CFA issued lifetime bans to 33 people, including former soccer chief Xie Yalong, and fined two clubs, Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Teda, for offering bribes, on Monday.
Boasting a huge fan base worldwide, the 37-year-old superstar's bond with the CSL is expected to help boost the league's appeal.
A sports marketing expert said his appearance won't erase the negative image of the game here.
"It's just a drop in the ocean," said Bi Xuemei, professor of sports PR and communication at Beijing Sport University. "I will say it's a positive step, but it won't do much to save the broken face of Chinese soccer as effectively as some people think.
"However, more attention from international media will focus on the league (if Beckham comes) and it will be an ideal chance for the CFA to do some positive PR campaigning."
The public seems to be of the same opinion as Bi.
More than 600 micro-blog users commented on Sina's CCTV News page of Beckham's China date by Thursday afternoon, and most were negative.
"It doesn't matter who the ambassador is, Beckham or somebody else, so what? If Chinese soccer can't clean itself up ... (the visit) won't earn respect from the world," a fan nicknamed "Tianshidaaixiaoyuer" wrote on his micro blog.
(China Daily 02/22/2013 page24)