How popular is David Beckham in China? In the midst of a soccer goodwill tour of the country, his presence at a Shanghai university today caused a near riot, as more than 1,000 students and fans converged on Beckham’s limousine, causing the world’s largest scrum. At least five people were injured, including a couple of policemen who were nearly crushed in the chaos. Organizers were forced to cancel the appearance.
Most of the injuries reportedly occurred when hundreds of fans rushed toward an open gate at the same time. Several where caught in the crush of people.
Within minutes of Mr Beckham stepping out from a Bentley, pandemonium broke out, witnesses said, as autograph-hunting fans surged towards China’s new football ambassador.
Thursday’s scrum was Mr Beckham’s second in less than 24 hours. On Wednesday night he attended a celebration of the Queen’s Birthday at an upmarket Shanghai hotel alongside Dame Helen Mirren.
Security guards and British diplomats battled to calm dozens of camera-toting admirers who had encircled the former Manchester United player but to no avail. Mr Beckham was led away without saying a word.
Beckham, who retired as an active player earlier this year, was appointed in March as China’s Global Ambassador for Football. Soccer officials are hopeful that his presence and influence will help rehabilitate the nation’s tarnished soccer image: which is seen to be rife with corruption and mismanagement.
Beckham’s fee? Anywhere from $2 million to $60 million, depending on who is doing the reporting.
David Beckham: a one-man Beatles.
Slideshow! (Not for the meek).