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China Daily Website

Beckham back in Beijing

Updated: 2013-06-18 02:26
By Sun Xiaochen ( China Daily)

Global soccer star donates personal items to promote the game in China

The Chinese soccer team's 5-1 defeat to Thailand on Saturday may have broken fans' hearts but the reappearance of David Beckham in Beijing probably eased some of the pain.

Hot on the heels of the drubbing, Beckham, who took the role of Chinese soccer's global ambassador in March, visited the capital again on Monday.

Beckham back in Beijing

Tang Wensheng, vice-chairwoman of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, presents a gift to David Beckham at a charity event in Beijing on Monday. The global soccer star donated personal items, including signed shirts and a sports car, to the foundation for a charity auction to promote youth soccer in China. Yin Di / For China Daily

He donated a series of personal items, including signed shirts and a sports car, to the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation for a charity auction to raise money to promote youth soccer.

At the donation ceremony, the former England captain showed six shirts — five from the clubs he had played for, including Manchester United and Real Madrid, and an England shirt. He also spoke about soccer's positive influence on children.

"To raise the awareness that children should be brought up with football so they can grow up healthily is always special. I feel privileged to be able to raise money for children by bringing my shirts," said the 38-year-old who just retired from professional soccer after winning the French Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain.

Lin Xiaohua, vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association, said the association expects Beckham to encourage more children to play soccer by sharing his story with them.

Beckham didn't mention the challenge of raising Chinese soccer's profile after the loss to Thailand.

The event organizer didn't allow the media to ask any questions before the star was whisked away immediately after the ceremony. Lin also turned down all interview requests after the event.

Although Beckham has huge popularity in China, a pundit said his influence will take time to assert itself.

"I can't see this (Beckham's ambassadorial role) ending badly ... but it will be a long, long time before we know if his presence has had any lasting effect," said Mark Dreyer, former Sky Sports and Associated Press reporter who has been based in China since 2007.

"I think the real question is not about improving the image of the game in China, but about improving the game itself."

Beckham also opened a personal account on Sina Weibo, the most popular micro-blogging platform in China, on Monday. Within hours, the number of his followers had risen to more than 200,000.