Beckham has been an MLS success in 'every measure'

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The Independent Football

David Beckham has delivered "in every measure" according to the Major League Soccer commissioner, Don Garber, yesterday, despite the England midfielder appearing in only five games in his first season in the United States.

Garber hailed Beckham during his State of the League address in Washington, insisting that the former England captain had been a fabulous addition to the league despite the injuries that prevented him from playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy in all but five games.

"The signing of David Beckham delivered on our expectations in every measure," Garber said. "The exposure we got because of David Beckham, regardless of how many games he played, was fantastic."

Beckham arrived in LA in July already carrying an ankle injury which he then aggravated. When he finally got over it, he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of all but the final two games of the season.

Beckham's absence deflated the huge sense of anticipation about his arrival, but Garber is confident the buzz will return when a healthy Beckham takes to the field in 2008.

"He can have his freshman year in his sophomore year," Garber said. "The way we look at it, we're going to have the first year all over again, and maybe that's a good thing." Garber also pointed to the impact Beckham had been able to make off the field, despite his injuries. "He is an absolute gentleman," Garber said. "Everything we asked David to do, he did."

Garber cited the record-breaking attendance, which broke the three million mark for the first time, as well as ESPN ratings that climbed 25 per cent, as evidence that the league was more popular than ever with Beckham and other star signings such as Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Juan Pablo Angel on board.

There is also evidence of the new gravitas enjoyed by the MLS in the guest list at the event hotel for this weekend's MLS Cup final. The former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and the former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein were in attendance in Washington this week to talk to MLS officials.

"The fire and the light from those signings has made a lot of people interested in MLS who wouldn't have been interested before," the MLS deputy commissioner, Ivan Gazidas, said.

"Mourinho is here because he's intrigued by the MLS, he wants to learn more about it. I can't tell you that he would not be here without Beckham, but my guess is he wouldn't."

Fifa, meanwhile, are to trial a new microchipped football at the Club World Cup in Japan next month, hoping this will end controversies over whether or not the ball has crossed the line. If the trial proves successful, the " smart-ball" could then be used at the next World Cup, in South Africa in 2010.

When players from the seven teams contesting December's trophy score, an implanted microchip will send an instant message to the referee's watch, putting an end to possible arguments about whether the ball crossed the line.

The smart-ball was not on display at a Tokyo news conference yesterday but will be publicly demonstrated and available to players before the tournament.

Fifa have considered prototypes before but say the smart-ball technology is now game-fit. "A lot of time, energy and money has been invested in development," said Viacheslav Koloskov, a Fifa executive committee member and chairman of the Japan organising committee. "If everything proceeds well enough, the ball will be widely used at the World Cup in 2010."

A single microchip emits an encrypted signal to four sensors that detect whether the entire ball crossed a goal-line at any height under the bar. Earlier difficulties with chips becoming loose have been addressed, say co-developers adidas, who added the ball was stress-tested to seven times the force of gravity.

Christian Holzer, a director at chip developers Cairos, says all goal-line variables have been considered. "There's no problem with any player covering the ball, and the system is not influenced by weather or humans," said Holzer.

Analysis of use in the tournament in Japan, which involves Milan, Boca Juniors, Urawa Red Diamonds, Pachuca, Etoile Sportive du Sahel, Waitakere United and Sepahan of Iran, will be presented next March.

The Reds player Nobuhisa Yamada said he supported the move. "Many calls are close and controversial," he said. "This technology will help referees make appropriate calls."

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