Soccer

Beckham mania grips Paris

2013-02-01 17:25
David Beckham (AFP Photo)

Paris - Rarely has an Englishman been so heartily welcomed by the French.

David Beckham's arrival to join the Paris Saint-Germain football club was greeted Friday with genuine praise, hospitality and pride that one of the world's great sports stars had been lured to the French capital.

The 37-year-old midfielder's move to Paris was the talk of the cafes and of morning radio, where the capital's Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said Beckham's move was "very good news" for the city.

"He's a great sports personality with a global audience and what he's said about Paris -- that it's a marvellous, attractive city -- is very good for the Parisian economy," Delanoe told Europe 1 radio.

He praised Beckham's decision to donate the salary from his five-month contract to local children's charities and said the high-profile arrival was good for the "dynamic" of the city's tourism industry.

Beckham's face was splashed across newspaper front-pages on Friday, with even high-brow left-wing daily Liberation hailing his performance at Thursday's unveiling press conference.

"Yesterday the former Manchester United midfielder was super. Smiling, suave, with this hint of roughness -- the accent from the working-class London neighbourhood where he grew up -- spicing up his words," the newspaper wrote.

"The loving looks from the hall. Oh, David..." it said.

Devoting its front page and two inside pages to Beckham's arrival, popular daily Le Parisien said his joining Paris Saint-Germain would catapult it into the league of internationally recognised clubs like Manchester United and AC Milan.

"Beckham is a pop star, an international icon, a Beatle in football boots," it said. "The capital's club is definitely launching into another world with the Englishman's signing."

"The Parisian club is moving into another galaxy," free commuter daily Metro agreed, with PSG's Qatari owners hoping Beckham's celebrity clout will allow it to tap new global merchandising markets.

At the PSG boutique on the Champs Elysees, jerseys featuring Beckham's No. 32 were already on sale for 110 euros Friday morning and a few fans swept in early to pick them up.

"He has class, he's charismatic," said one of them, Nahim Moulai, who works nearby.

"I've been a PSG supporter for many years. I have last year's jersey but not this year's yet. So when I heard that Beckham was signing, I decided," he said.

If there was any disappointment in Paris it was that Beckham's wife -- former Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria -- and their four children would not be joining him.

"It was the only bad news of the day," Le Parisien wrote, noting that Beckham flew back to London on a private jet to rejoin his family shortly after speaking to the press.

It reported that when in Paris Beckham was expected to be living in one of two possible luxury locations: the Intercontinental hotel near the Palais Garnier Opera house or the Bristol hotel near the Elysee Palace.

He will be provided with a personal chauffeur and bodyguard, it said, and the club is planning to boost security during away games.

While in France, Beckham and his family will also benefit from the country's strict privacy laws, perhaps escaping some of the tabloid scrutiny that followed them in Los Angeles, where he played for LA Galaxy, and in Britain.

#Beckham was the top trending item on French Twitter Friday, with many on the social network saying "Bienvenue!" and praising his decision to donate his salary to the charities, which have not yet been named.

"Now that #Beckham has signed with #PSG I'll be able to watch the matches with my wife! #MerciBeckham," wrote one excited French Twitter user.

Some wondered though whether Beckham's decision to donate his salary was motivated by wanting to avoid a 75 percent tax rate on high incomes proposed by Socialist President Francois Hollande's government.

And at least one Twitter user in France, Olympique de Marseille midfielder Joey Barton, couldn't help but poke fun at his countryman.

"He'll be great for French Football. Although, he'll remain 2nd best/best looking, Englishman in France. That'll hurt his confidence!" Barton Tweeted.

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