<
>

GALAXY: Keeping up with Becks

12/5/2011
David Beckham of the Galaxy signs autographs for fans at a training session in Melbourne, Australia. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

It's all Becks all the time around Melbourne, where the Galaxy are readying for the final game on their postseason tour of Asia and Australia.

There's the story of the mother at Royal Children's Hospital, which David Beckham visited Monday, who asked the English superstar for a kiss -- and got one.

Or the celebrity chef who set a special menu for his restaurant and made a personal appearance to meet Beckham, who decided to dine elsewhere. (Or did he?)

Beckham (and his teammates, we imagine, although most of the press suggests he's a solo act) has been busy since touching down Sunday in Melbourne, causing frenzies at the airport and in a visit to a high school, spending an hour with kids and their families at the hospital, meeting Australian Rules football star Marc Murphy, making exciting dinner plans and repeating to the Australian media what he's told everyone all year: That he hasn't decided what's next and won't decide until the season's over.

The season ends with the game late Monday night -- well, early Tuesday morning, 12:30 a.m. -- Pacific time against the A-League's Melbourne Victory in front of an expected crowd of 40,000 at Etihad Stadium.

No clue if it's Beckham's last game for the Galaxy.

“I wanted to end this season with a championship, and we did that, then I wanted some time on this tour to be able to celebrate it,” Beckham told media in Melbourne. “I haven’t actually started thinking about it yet. Once I get some down time, then I’ll start thinking what’s going to be best.

“I'm going to spend some time with the family, have a good Christmas.”

He later told the Herald Sun that he's definitely not retiring -- not that anyone really expected him to do so -- that his next contract might be his last (at 36, he notes, he's near, “some people say, to the end of my career”), and that he's “still a Galaxy player right now, and that might not change.” (He also tells about running into Jack Nicholson in a restroom at a Lakers game.)

The Melbourne Age, the sober broadsheet in town, isn't covering Beckham from a celebrity standpoint. Solid preview coverage of the match, sure, but the juiciest tidbit it offers is that Beckham “still loves the game and cannot see a reason to stop playing.”

The Australian, a national newspaper, took note of Beckham's humility, his eloquence and that he gives “no impression of being disillusioned or jaded” -- qualities those of us who have covered him the past 4½ years can attest to -- while discussing his visits to University High School in Melbourne and the Royal Children's Hospital.

“He was really, really good with the kids, interested in them and humble,” The Australian quoted Victory captain Adrian Leijer, who also appeared at the school. The paper said Leijer was “genuinely surprised by how Beckham conducted himself with the schoolchildren” and that he had perhaps expected something “more perfunctory.”

For the deepest Beckham coverage, it's the Herald Sun that offers all the celeb-sizzling tidbits readers want. The tabloid reported on the peck at the hospital and the dinner dustoff.

At the hospital, it reported, Beckham made a beeline for Jacqui Fewson and her 19-month-old daughter, Allegra, and asked, “I'd love to kiss her. Will she cry?”

Fewson's answer: “No, she won't. Can her mummy have one, too.”

She later told the newspaper: “I'm starstruck. I'm shaking. He's hot. What girl doesn't think he is, and we had him without Posh [Beckham's wife, Victoria]. ... He's more handsome in real life.”

There's some confusion, perhaps, over Beckham's dinner plans Sunday night, and the Herald Sun bears some blame.

The newspaper reported Monday about Beckham's visit to George Calombaris' pricey Greek eatery The Press Club, quoting the celebrity chef that “this doesn't get any better” and describing how Calmobaris “added a personal touch to Beckham's meal and was conscious of his athletic needs.”

Next day, new story. Turns out Calombaris, a judge on Australian Network Ten reality TV series “MasterChef Australia,” was stood up. Beckham instead dined at an Italian place with teammates and Victory assistant coach Kevin Muscat.

THE VICTORY: Melbourne is seventh in the 10-team A-League with a 2-2-5 record following a 3-1 loss Saturday at the Newcastle Jets. Manager Mehmet Durakovic acknowledged the short turnaround -- and a looming league game next weekend against Adelaide United -- would inform his lineup.

“We want to put a good team out there and show what we can do,” Durakovic told media. “But I've also got to juggle between the game and Saturday's game. It's a very important game for us as well. We've got some youngsters coming through, and it will give them a chance to play against the best football players in the world.”

The biggest name on the roster is Harry Kewell, 33, a former Australian national team star who spent a dozen years in England, with Leeds United and Liverpool, but he's uncertain after two matches back from a hamstring injury.

“We had a recovery session this morning,” Durakovic said, “and every player put their hand up to play. I'll make my decision nearer to game time.”

WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy is staging a viewing part for the game at OB's Pub & Grill in Manhattan Beach, with the MLS Cup trophy and Supporters' Shield slated to make appearances. ... Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes are televising the game. ... Former D.C. United forward Danny Allsopp is on the Victory's roster. ... L.A. is 0-2 in previous trips to Australia, losing in 2007 to Sydney FC (5-3) and last year to the Newcastle Jets (2-1). ... Sportsbet.com.au, an online betting site, says Kewell is likeliest to receive Beckham's jersey after the game. Second choice: He throws it into the stands. ... The Galaxy have won the first two games on their trek, beating Indonesia's national team, 1-0, last Wednesday in Jakarta and the Philippines' national team, 6-1, Saturday in Manila.