As fireworks crackle, Beckham plays last home game

Never a stranger to the big stage, David Beckham was finally

overwhelmed and reduced to tears as he went out in a burst of

fireworks and cheers Saturday in his final home game for Paris

Saint-Germain before retirement.

Fans chanted his name before the game, and they chanted some

more when he was finished. There was an outpouring of hugs, cheers,

song and congratulations – from teammates, opponents and even

former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

”To end my career in front of a crowd like that, with players

like that, it’s very special,” Beckham said, adding that emotions

had already started overpowering him before he was taken off.

”It started about 20 minutes before that, to be honest. I

started thinking and then, you know, I couldn’t concentrate by

then, and it was difficult,” he said. ”You know, you try to hold

the emotion back because it is what it is, but it’s

difficult.”

There also was some soccer to be played. And Beckham, appointed

captain for the game, was involved in two of his team’s goals in a

3-1 victory over Brest.

He drew a roaring standing ovation and wiped away tears when he

left in the 81st minute. As the match drew to a close, Beckham

appeared to tire, putting his hands on his thighs as he leaned

forward.

”I want to say thank you to everybody in Paris. To my

teammates, to the staff, to the fans,” Beckham told the fans after

the game. ”It’s been very special to finish my career here. It

could not have been any more special.”

One after another, the players then walked out onto a makeshift

podium in the middle of the field and thanked the crowd after the

game had ended.

When it was Beckham’s turn to climb onto the podium, the Beatles

song `Hello, Goodbye’ rang out as the stadium’s big screen beamed

pictures of Beckham’s short PSG career and flashed another message

of thanks.

Draped in the English flag, Beckham sprinted onto the stage.

”Merci, Paris,” he said. ”I’m very sad to be leaving, but

thank you.”

PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti praised Beckham’s impact on world

football.

”He will miss the world of football because he showed a good

image every time, really professional,” Ancelotti said. ”I think

that he is sure that this decision was the right moment and we have

to respect this. It was a fantastic evening for him. He will have a

very good memory of this night.”

When Beckham had gone off, the crowd, which included Sarkozy,

rose as one and players trotted over to give him a hug. The players

from Brest also understood the moment. Charlison Benschop, who had

scored Brest’s consolation goal a minute earlier, walked over to

shake his hand.

With chants of ”Dav-eed Beckham, Dav-eed Beckham” echoing,

Beckham looked to be on the verge of tears. He applauded the crowd

and blew a kiss to his family in the stands. There was time for one

more hug – this one a bit longer from coach Carlo Ancelotti –

before he sat on the bench, maybe for the last time.

”I spoke with David and told him that in my last (ever) game I

scored two goals,” Ancelotti joked. ”I said to him `Maybe tonight

you’ll score two goals’ – but maybe he didn’t have my

quality.”

The former England captain announced Thursday he is retiring at

the end of the season. Ancelotti added that it is unlikely Beckham

will play in the final game of the season, away to Lorient on May

26, but that this has not been decided yet.

”I just feel that it’s the right time. I feel that I’ve

achieved everything that I could in my career. I wanted to go out

as a champion,” Beckham said. ”I’ve finished my career in a team

that has treated me like I’ve been here for 10 years.

Beckham has yet to say if he will play in PSG’s last game, at

Lorient on May 26.

”It’s a historic moment,” the stadium announcer intoned as

Beckham was substituted. Not that the crowd of 44,983 needed a

reminder.

As Beckham walked off slowly, applauding the fans, his hair

uncharacteristically bedraggled, his mother, Sandra, wiped away a

tear in the stands.

His replacement, Ezequiel Lavezzi, gave Beckham a big hug and

then ruffled the fashion maven’s hair. Beckham immediately swept it

back into place.

After the final whistle, teammates hoisted Beckham off the

ground and repeatedly tossed him in the air, putting a smile back

on his face.

The celebrations kicked in as the lights were turned off, light

sticks were held up and the crowd broke into song. The fireworks

then flew into the night sky, accompanied by an `Ole!’ as each one

went off.

”After 22 years of playing football I’m going to take a few

months to enjoy time with my family,” Beckham said, before adding

that he still wants to stay involved with PSG. ”It’s been a very

special place for me.”

Before the game, the 38-year-old Englishman was given a rousing

reception at Parc des Princes. Spectators broke into chants of

”Merci, David” when his name was read over the stadium

speaker.

PSG’s players walked onto the field to a thunderous reception,

with Nirvana’s ”Smells like Teen Spirit” reverberating. PSG right

back Christophe Jallet dyed his hair in the blue, white and red of

the French flag while the players all wore next season’s team

jerseys.

The game brought a stronger security presence, with about 150

riot police forming a ring inside the stadium in the second half.

The show of force followed Monday night’s riots at Trocadero plaza,

where a celebration to mark the French title turned violent.

This was Beckham’s 14th game and fifth start since joining PSG

in a surprise move on the last day of the transfer window. He was

appointed captain before the game.

PSG clinched the league title last weekend, making Beckham the

first English player to win the championship in four countries

after title success with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los

Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham was involved in the opening goal in the seventh minute.

His free kick found Clement Chantome, whose pass released Zlatan

Ibrahimovic as he broke into the penalty area down the right side.

Ibrahimovic struck the ball into the opposite corner.

Ibrahimovic almost scored a minute later when Beckham’s superb

long pass sent him through, but the imposing Swede hesitated

between heading the ball over goalkeeper Alexis Thebaux or taking

it past him. Theabaux snatched the ball from him.

Beckham set up the second goal in the 32nd with a corner kick

from the left. Blaise Matuidi’s poorly hit ball bounced into the

ground and looped over Thebaux’s outstretched arm. Ibrahimovic

blasted in a free kick from 30 yards into the top left corner for

the third goal, setting a personal record with his 29th league goal

of the season.

Early in the second half, Beckham almost set up striker Kevin

Gameiro with a curling cross from the right that the striker headed

wide.

It would not be long before Beckham was gone, but the noise and

the celebration and the fireworks still had a ways to go.