Kevin Garside: David Beckham's move to Miami is one more example of a perfectly timed run into the box by the former England captain

‘If baseball is America’s past and football is its present,  soccer may be its future’

You have to stay relevant in your culture. So said Mick Hucknall, explaining how his band Simply Red had filled the ears of disciples so productively for 25 years. In other words don’t try and sell thrash metal to a classical audience, or Radio 4 to the kids.

The career of Hucknall, an east Manchester Red who called time on his band four years ago, pretty much coincided with United’s colonisation of the Premier League and he was a regular attendee at Old Trafford during the first coming of David Beckham in the mid 1990s. His advice came to mind last week as Beckham took to the streets of Miami on the latest leg of his ridiculously successful odyssey across the football landscape.

Since most things in the life of Beckham are heavily scripted, you would not expect him to fluff his pitch to Miami. He was, of course, word perfect and stupendously groomed when giving the neighbourhood the good news that he would be leading the return of soccer to a city the game has so far failed to nourish.

Miami Fusion folded more than a decade ago, unable to connect with a largely Hispanic community that it was assumed might empathise with the project. The premise was flawed because it failed to take account of the fact that those migrating to the city had come to embrace the American dream, not impose ones from the old country. And the majority were from Cuba, which has no great affection for the game.

That has changed significantly in the early part of the 21st century, with solid representation from nationalities as diverse as Polish, Italian, Brazilian, Chilean, British, Colombian, Turkish, Argentinian, Uruguayan, Lebanese, Irish, Romanian and more. A sample of that eclectic mix is gathered in a condo also shared by Reuters sports correspondent Simon Evans, who hails from Burnley and is intimate with the sporting impulses of his adopted town.

 

Beckham is gambling that relevance is within his grasp, owing in part to the rapidly evolving Miami mix outlined by Evans in his many missives on the subject, and by the spread of fundamental grass roots development in the region. Optimism is sourced in statistics produced by the Public Religion Research Institute, which suggest Beckham might have timed his run into the box perfectly.  

The principal change is the adhesion of youth to the sport. The US Youth Soccer Association has more than three million registered players, up from just 100,000 when Pele and George Best were toiling on the American frontier 40 years ago. 

According to the research, soccer is second only to American football as the favourite sport of young Americans. The average age of baseball fans, according to PRRI, is 53, for American football 46, and for soccer 37, allowing PRRI research director Daniel Cox to speculate thus: “If baseball is America’s past, and football is its present, then soccer may be its future.”

Cox points out that a north American league that had 10 teams and just three owners when the Fusion folded in 2001 now has 19 with two more pledged. Crowds are on the up, averaging 18,000, which compares comfortably with basketball and ice hockey. The Seattle Sounders are watched by 44,000-plus, a chunk more than Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Beckham’s bespoke presence at Kendall Park on Wednesday had a religious quality about it, his blond quiff appearing to float above the madding crowd, a symbol of vitality and success that promised to end the longing of this soccer-free gulag. Failure doesn’t come dressed in made-to-measure Prada, supported by the city’s mayor and the boss of a telecoms company.

Beckham has his ducks in a row, just as he had when he picked Victoria Beckham out of the Spice Girls line-up, made believers out of Real Madrid, put LA Galaxy on the map and sold what were essentially side shows in Milan and Paris as main events. 

Beckham’s entrepreneurial shift is redolent of Richard Branson, who offers not so much personal cash to a project as cachet. Beckham brings brand. He is the magnetic field that attracts the big investors like Miami-based telecoms billionaire Marcelo Claure and political clout in the shape of Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Giménez, who could not get enough of the Beckham association. “The world’s most popular sport is coming to the world’s hottest city,” he cooed.

A downtown site is being sought within walking distance of the American Airlines Arena, home to NBA all-stars Miami Heat, permitting enhanced connectivity between brands Becks and Le Bron, and hopefully the cross-fertilization of fans.

For this baby to reach maturity it requires the love of the people and a TV deal. Beckham can’t force the locals to come if there is no love for the game, but if there is, he can do the rest. The man is made for TV.

As for what colour Miami might adopt? Simply red, of course.

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
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
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
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.

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