David Beckham said Friday that he is coming to the United States to play soccer and nothing more.
Along the way, he said, he will do everything he can to encourage more American youngsters take up the sport, but he is not headed to Los Angeles for a new career in stage, screen, television, fashion-modeling, music or anything else.
He may be a celebrity, but he is still, first and foremost, a soccer player.
One day after his five-year, $250-million deal to join Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy was announced, Beckham talked to reporters and some of his future teammates on a teleconference call beamed live from Madrid to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey.
Looking less than relaxed and even a bit self-conscious in a stiff-collared white shirt, dark jacket and tie, Beckham sounded genuinely enthusiastic about joining MLS. "It was a difficult decision but not a hard one to make," the former Manchester United standout said of his pending move from nine-time European champion Real Madrid to the one-time CONCACAF champion Galaxy.
"I've played in top-class football now for 15 years for two of the biggest clubs in the world . . . so stepping away from that was always going to be difficult," he said. "But the decision to join the Galaxy wasn't hard because I've been to L.A. and . . . I think there's a huge opportunity out there. With me, it's about football; that's what I'm all about. I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football."
He said that "soccer is growing in the States . . . and that's one of the reasons why I'm wanting to take this challenge up, because I'd like to take it to another level. I'm a player who works hard on the pitch, I'm a team player. People talk about being a superstar, but I love being part of a team that wants to win and wants to play football.
"That's what I'm looking forward to.
"I'm not saying me coming over to the U.S. is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America, because that's going to be very difficult to achieve. I'd love say that would happen, but I think there are so many other major great sports in the U.S. like baseball, like basketball, like American football."
Beckham's contract with Real Madrid runs through June 30, after which he will take some time off before joining the Galaxy in later July or early August.