David Beckham’s desire to play for England may be limiting the influence he’s having on the football scene in the United States, although Mia Hamm believes it’s still too early to judge the Major League Soccer star’s true impact.
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Beckham signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. The move to the MLS was expected to increase the game’s appeal to a sports-viewing public generally more enamored with American football and baseball.
”I think to some degree,” Hamm told The Associated Press on Thursday when asked if the expected change Beckham was set to bring the game in the United States had happened.
”It’s still evolving, he’s still there. I don’t think the David Beckham chapter is quite finished yet. Maybe we’ll need to evaluate it in five years.”
Hamm said Beckham’s dedication to England had perhaps been the biggest hurdle.
”He definitely created a buzz,” the former U.S. captain said from the sidelines of the Barcelona Global Sports Forum. ”But playing for your country also means a certain amount of time. When he came to Los Angeles it looked like his days in England were over but there was a huge push by his teammates to bring him back.
”As a competitor you understand why there was this transition back to Europe. As a fan, I was excited he was playing for the Galaxy and I could see him in my own backyard. As a teammate I’m sure they also understand. It’s difficult.”
Hamm, a two-time world player of the year, believes Beckham’s good intentions but yearning to play in Europe during the MLS offseason put him in a ”tough position.”
The Galaxy rejected a loan-move to English club Tottenham this year with Beckham returning from the Achilles’ tendon injury he sustained while playing for AC Milan a year ago. Beckham, whose 115 international appearances are the most by an outfield England player, traveled to last summer’s World Cup as an assistant to coach Fabio Capello while recovering from the injury.
”I believe him when he says he’s committed to making our sport grow in our own backyard,” said Hamm, a two-time World Cup champion.
Beckham is the biggest name to sign up for MLS since its inception in 1996, and the most famous player to play club football in the U.S. since Pele, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff competed in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and early ’80s.
The 35-year-old Beckham hasn’t played for England since an October 2009 match against Belarus.