Beckham finally makes his presence felt for Paris St-Germain after debut
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Monday 25 February 2013
David Beckham capped his first brief appearance for Paris St-Germain last night with a delicate chip in injury time which led to his team's clinching goal in a 2-0 victory over arch-rivals Marseilles.
In celebration, Beckham leaped into the arms of the PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic – by far the ageing Englishman's most athletic action in an 18 minute appearance on a snowy night at the Parc des Princes.
TV replays showed that the goal had, in fact, bounced into the net off the knee of a Marseilles player. No matter. The passionate Becks-Ibra hug may, or may not, put to rest rumours that the Sweden striker has thrown a sulk since becoming only the second biggest name in the PSG squad.
Earlier, Beckham broke a record. He became the most filmed non-playing substitute in the history of football. The French TV coverage – broadcast to 56 nations and 300 million people around the world – constantly broke away from French football's "classico" to zoom in on Beckham on the bench.
The Canal Plus cable channel had a camera – wittily called the BeckCam – permanently focused on the actions and inactions of the PSG No 37. In the fifth minute, those 300 million people saw Becks yawning; in the 11th, they saw him punching the air after the first PSG goal (also an own-goal). In the 50th minute, they saw Beckham tying his bootlaces; in the 54th, they saw him start to warm up.
In the 61st minute, they saw a mini-live interview with Beckham. What did he think of French football so far, the TV reporter asked him. "So far so good," Becks said. "It's football. There are always difficult moments."
In the meantime, a football match was going on, watched by 55,000 people, including Victoria Beckham and the former president Nicolas Sarkozy. After their early setback, Marseilles dominated the game. In all fairness, another Englishman, Joey Barton, on loan from Queen's Park Rangers, made a much greater footballing contribution to the night than Beckham did. He was neat and skilful; he was energetic; he almost scored with a header; he only committed the one foul.
The French press had made much in advance of the clash between "le spice boy" (Beckham) and "le bad boy" (Barton). In the event, the only time the two Englishmen came near to each other was after the final whistle. They exchanged polite-seeming words and Barton seemed to ask Beckham to swap shirts in the dressing room.
The PSG manager, Carlo Ancelotti, waited until the 75th minute to give Beckham his debut in French football. He finally sent on Beckham to replace the Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore. Le Spice Boy took up an unfamiliar role as a holding midfielder. Two of his first three passes went astray. He began to look a little winded.
In 91st minute, and with Marseilles pressing for an equaliser, PSG broke away. The ball reached Beckham on the edge of the penaty area. He scooped it over the defence into the path of the France international, Jérémy Ménez. Ibrahimovic appeared to turn Menez's cross into the net. Replays showed that a Marseilles defender's knee did the job for him.
Beckham's part in the goal was undisputed. Not bad for a beginner.
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