Two years ago, a grinning David Beckham descended the stairs from his plane at Los Angeles airport, holding his wife Victoria's hand. Fans and photographers screamed, in a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood premiere.
The former England captain had plenty to smile about. He arrived having signed a five-year deal with LA Galaxy worth £128m, while off the pitch he and Victoria seemed destined to become A-list celebrities with the aid of their close friend Tom Cruise.
On Sunday night – early yesterday in Britain – the Beckhams' American dream turned sour. Victoria watched helplessly as her husband played a home match for LA Galaxy to a chorus of boos and jeers from his own (supposed) fans. Sitting beside her, Tom Cruise looked equally dismayed.
The American club's opponents were AC Milan, the club from which Beckham had just returned from a five-month loan which some fans had considered a betrayal.
Disillusioned spectators sang obscene chants throughout the game and held aloft signs reading "Go Home Fraud" and "23: Repent", a reference to Beckham's shirt number. Another read: "Hey Becks: Here Before You, Here After You, Here Despite You".
As he walked off the pitch at half-time, the 34-year-old had clearly had enough. His next move wasn't an Eric Cantona-style response to crowd banter but Beckham did approach a crowd barrier and began to remonstrate with a section of the paying public who had already vented their fury in no uncertain terms.
As Beckham attempted to climb over the barrier, an angry fan leapt out of his seat and rushed towards him. Both were restrained by security staff.
After half-time, Beckham aggravated the home supporters further by waiting until all of the players had returned to the pitch before jogging on. He then hugged several of his former AC Milan teammates and gestured towards the rowdiest section of the crowd, where security staff were posted for the remainder of the game.
During the friendly, played in front of a sell-out crowd of 27,000, chants of "We don't need no David Beckham" to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" could be heard.
After setting up an LA Galaxy goal, the midfielder responded by turning in the direction of the "LA Riot Squad" – the club's most hardcore supporters – and shrugging his shoulders. He was substituted in the 75th minute, with the match eventually ending 2-2.
Beckham insisted after the game that he had not been trying to aggravate the fans and had merely been trying to shake one by the hand.
"One of the guys was saying things that wasn't very nice," he said. "It was stepping over the line. I said 'You need to calm down and come shake my hand', and he jumped over."
An LA Galaxy fan, Eric Lewis, disagreed: "He called the guy out. How stupid is that? He's the player, he's the professional. He should have kept himself under control and he didn't. He says he's full of class and he's been playing with all the best teams in the world. That showed absolutely no class."
Earlier this year, Beckham enraged LA Galaxy supporters by saying he wanted to stay in Milan rather than return to the US, as the standard of play was far superior in Italy. The AC Milan manager, Leonardo, has hinted he may play for the club again next season. Last week, Beckham said: "The England manager has made it very clear to me that I need to be playing at European level."
LA Galaxy fans were further infuriated by the midfielder's decision to miss the first five games of the Major League Soccer season, in favour of a taking a holiday with his wife in France and the Seychelles. The fans saw his decision as a sign he lacked commitment. Beckham said he needed a rest after his spell with Milan.Reuse content