Friendly? Not Exactly

Soccer

Some Galaxy Fans Allege Beckham Cursed At Them In Return To Mls Against Ac Milan

July 21, 2009|By Grahame L. Jones | Grahame L. Jones,Tribune Newspapers

LOS ANGELES - -Did David Beckham bring the crowd down on his own head Sunday night by taunting, challenging and perhaps insulting Galaxy fans at the Home Depot Center?

That was the contention of several fans Monday in the wake of the Los Angeles Galaxy's 2-2 tie with AC Milan in a sold-out friendly match in Carson, Calif.

It was Beckham's first home game back with the Galaxy after his five-month loan to AC Milan, and he was visibly angry at the anti-Beckham banners in the stadium and at the verbal abuse he received from those who question his loyalty to the Major League Soccer team.

Matters came to a head at halftime, when Beckham approached the corner of the stadium where the Galaxy's most vociferous support group, the Riot Squad, gathers.

A widely circulated video of the incident shows Beckham confronting the crowd, pointing his finger at fans, and trying to climb over an advertising board before being stopped by security personnel.

One fan, identified only as Josh, responded to whatever Beckham said by coming down out of the crowd. He was collared by security officers, escorted away and later cited for trespassing.

"One of the guys was saying things that really wasn't very nice," Beckham said after the game. "It was stepping over the line. I said 'You need to calm down and come shake my hand,' and he jumped over."

But fans on the scene strongly disputed that interpretation.

"We boo a lot of players," Riot Squad member Ricardo Vigil of Los Angeles said on the video. "They don't come out and challenge our guys. He was saying, 'Come down here.' The guy came down there."

Eric Lewis, another member of the fan group, had harsher words.

"He called out a drunk fan," Lewis said. "How stupid is that? He's the player. He's the professional. He should have kept himself under control. He didn't."

Galaxy fan Jeff Austin, in an e-mail, described Beckham's actions as "way out of line for a professional athlete."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Monday, Bob Ramsey, a college professor, minister and Riot Squad member from Glendora, Calif., said something had set Beckham off.

"His first reaction was to give us a thumbs-up, and I thought, 'OK, he's going to play along with it and just realize that we're going to kind of give him a hard time here,' " Ramsey said.

"At halftime, he seemed to see something when he was running off the field and he came over and was challenging the guys in the front of our section."

Ramsey, and others, said Beckham repeatedly used particularly foul language.

"Not to put too strong a point on it, but in Beckham's post-game comments, he's lying about what happened," Ramsey said.

Beckham further angered the fans when, after setting up the tying goal with a corner kick, he turned to the Riot Squad and made a shushing gesture.

The Galaxy issued a statement Monday afternoon in which Bruce Arena, the team's coach and general manager, said the team regrets what happened. However, no mention was made of Beckham's behavior.

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