Beckham arrives in China as football ambassador
BEIJING (AP) — David Beckham arrived in China on Tuesday as an ambassador to help develop young players as the country tries to clean up its football image after a spate of corruption scandals.
The former England captain said he isn’t concerned about the match-fixing scandals in China, with several players and officials sentenced to prison.
“I’m not here to clean up anything. I’m here to educate the children and give them a chance to become professional footballers,” Beckham, dressed in a smart grey suit and tie, said during his first appearance as ambassador at a Beijing primary school.
Beckham, who was linked with a move to play in the Chinese Super League after leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy in December, also said he hasn’t ruled out playing professionally in China someday.
“Who knows? People keep saying that it will be my last club, it will be my last season,” said the 37-year-old midfielder, now with Paris Saint-Germain. “I continue to play and I love playing, so we’ll see.”
Beckham is due to play an exhibition game in China in November, five months after his contract with PSG expires. If he opts to retire by then, the match could mark the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star’s swansong before he switches focus to his career off the field.
Developing a youth program is considered a priority for the CSL, with a mere 8,000 players of all ages registered at local associations in a football-mad nation of 1.3 billion people.
Beckham indicated he would take a strong interest in inspiring and training talented young players who might one day represent their nation internationally.
“I think it’s important that we get a process in hand,” he said.
A weak youth system, along with rampant corruption, has been blamed in part for the Chinese national team’s poor international results. The country has only played once at the World Cup, in 2002.