Japan jumps on Beckham bandwagon

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The Independent Football

The Real Madrid and David Beckham show hit Japan yesterday to be greeted by 3,000 fans at the airport with a further 45,000 turning up for a training session at the Tokyo Dome.

The England captain was again the centre of attention as Real embarked upon the second leg of their pre-season Far East tour. A grinning Beckham, serenaded throughout by Japanese fans who had paid 3,000 yen (£15) each to watch the one-hour practice, sprayed the Brazilian defender, Roberto Carlos, with water after being teased for waving at the crowd.

But Beckham, who made his Real debut in a 4-0 win over a Chinese select team in Beijing on Saturday, said that the joking would stop tomorrow when Real play the J-League club FC Tokyo in a friendly.

"Obviously making my debut was an amazing feeling but it is important that we get our fitness up," Beckham said. "We performed well in the last game and got what we wanted and we are looking forward to our next game. We are taking these matches seriously."

Earlier, hordes of female fans, many in Real shirts, screamed as Beckham passed through customs. It was the same at the later training session. Despite the presence of Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Luis Figo in the Real party, many of the fans only had eyes for the man from east London. Every time he touched the ball the crowd squealed and cameras flashed all around the vast indoor arena.

"It was an extraordinary feeling walking out there and seeing how many people turned up just to see us train," he said.

Real will play matches in Hong Kong and Bangkok after facing FC Tokyo. Tickets for the Tokyo game, costing from 6,500 yen (£34) to 10,000 yen (£52) were snapped up within hours of going on sale.

In Beijing on Saturday, Beckham was mobbed by flower girls during the pre-match formalities before the game against a China Dragons Select XI at the Workers' Stadium - and, just for a moment, looked uncomfortable.

But there were no signs of trepidation once the match had started. Beckham showed his full range of passing and dead-ball talents as Real won 4-0. He was a lively contributor for 73 minutes, twice coming close with free-kicks as goals from Figo, two from Fernando Morientes and one from Javier Portillo made sure of victory in what amounted to little more than an exhibition game.

Beckham's new coach, Carlos Queiroz, said: "Beckham did well. Especially in the first half, when all he wanted to do was help out the team. There is a sentence to define his performance: He played for the team."

Beckham was also pleased to have completed his first run-out in the famous white shirt. "I enjoyed myself and felt very comfortable considering it was my first competitive game," he said. "This is due to the other Real Madrid players who have done everything they could to make me feel part of the set-up since the day we joined up for pre-season training."

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