Far East fans put their shirts on Beckham Inc

One boy was about six years old, the other about four. They were waiting with their mother at Osaka airport for the bus. Both were Japanese and were wearing England shirts with the number seven and "Beckham" stencilled on the back.

That Beckham was big in Japan was well known but it was still an unexpected sight. Four days later, such sightings go without comment. They are so commonplace. On Sunday, at the Universiade Stadium, thousands were similarly attired, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Though there were occasional sightings of "Scholes" or even "Gascoigne" most, if they were not wearing shirts honouring David Beckham, had ones with "Owen" on the back.

Yet, while Michael Owen is popular, Beckham is a phenomenon. The biggest roars of the afternoon were not for the goals in England's 2-2 draw with Cameroon but for the ballwork skills by Beckham before and after the match.

Several local magazines have pictures of Beckham on the front of their current editions, with one carrying a piece comparing Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron, his Manchester United teammate and Argentine opponent, written by David Meek, the United correspondent of the Manchester Evening News. Though Meek is a man of many talents, one assumes his words have been translated into Japanese.

The Football Association hopes the enthusiasm for Beckham, Owen and their clubs could be England's 24th player in this World Cup. Brazil are also very popular, for the usual reasons and because many Brazilians – including the 1994 World Cup-winning captain, Dunga – have played in the national J League but the evidence so far suggests England are more so. Since the draw was made, the FA has been building on this support with a charm offensive in cities where England will play. Officials were delighted to hear, in Sunday's match, chants of "England, England" which were noticeably different from the more customary alcohol-fuelled "Ing-ger-lund".

Paul Barber, the FA's commercial director, said the FA had been taken aback when officials came to Japan after the draw was made, and found Argentina might have more support than England in the crucial 7 June tie because of long-standing Japanese- Argentine footballing links. The FA responded by forging fraternal links at government and grassroots level and pursuing an open-door policy with the Japanese media. The work appears to have succeeded.

The sight of thousands of Japanese fans in Beckham- labelled England shirts also provided a riposte to Peter Kenyon, the chief executive of Manchester United, who claimed in the spring that Beckham being England captain provided "no commercial value to United". Mr Barber seemed on surer ground when he said yesterday: "It is a two-way street. David's good for England and being England captain's good for David. The great thing about playing in a World Cup is that you are exposed to millions of people. In any sphere of life that sort of exposure is worth a lot. Equally, the level of support we got here and throughout the tournament comes from having icon players like David, Michael and many of the others."

Another happy organisation is Umbro. It sold plenty of England shirts on the day and will shift many more. With football shirts retailing in Japan for as much as £80 it is a lucrative market.

The cash value of the Beckham brand to the England team has not been calculated. But in the case of Manchester United it has. His new contract stipulates that on top of his £70,000-a-week salary, he will get a further £20,000 from a unique image rights clause.

Eugen Beer of marketing consultants BD Communications said: "Beckham himself is like a can of Ronseal. He is this good, honest, decent, absurdly good-looking guy."

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence