At least ten were injured when a crowd of around 1,000 fans at Shanghai's Tongji University mobbed star English footballer David Beckham. Among the injured were police officers, university students and security guards.
Pushing through a police cordon, the fans clamored to catch a glimpse of the star who waved at them on his way to meet members of the university’s football team as part of his duties as an ambassador for the Chinese Super League and Youth Football Program.
“We didn't expect so many people showing up here. Too many fans of Beckham,” said Tongji player Chu Dan, who called the situation “too crazy.” Photos and videos reveal people being pushed to the ground as some are seen being carried away on stretchers
“Beckham didn't finish what he (was) scheduled to do here because of today's disorder,” university student Zhou Xiru said. “He just walked around in the field and left. I think the impression of Tongji University in Beckham's mind must be bad.”
Amid the pandemonium, Beckham was forced to retreat. He quickly took to microblogging service Weibo to wish the injured a swift recovery and share his regret for the need to cancel the event, which was intended to be part of a seven-day tour to promote the CSL.
Beckham – who some say is poised to be knighted (a debate rages over the merits of this move) – has become much more than an athlete. His former coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, whom he played under from 1992-2003 at Manchester United, called him an “amazing person”, praising him for his adeptness at reinventing himself; just as he has done in China.
“You talk about longevity and in many ways reinventing himself, it has been absolutely incredible,” Ferguson said. The legend’s former coach marveled at his choice to make the unlikely move to America in 2007 to play for the LA Galaxy, before bouncing back across the Atlantic to play for AC Milan.
“Beckhamania” is in full swing in China, since the iconic retired player chose to take on the role earlier this year, after winning the French league title with his team, Paris Saint-Germain and announcing his retirement.
While the prospects of soccer taking off in China are potentially immense, the sport has been plagued by scandals and faces an uphill journey. But Beckham is determined to do his part to turn things around.
“When I first came on as ambassador of the Super League, I was well aware of what has happened in the past, and people question why I wanted to be involved in something that in the past had a bad name or corruption involved,” he told reporters in Shanghai.
He added, “For me, the past is the past, this is the future.”