When David Beckham saunters into a room, a number of thoughts occur.
Such as, camera shutters can make an impressive racket when there are enough of them being clicked rapid-fire.
This would not be a revelation to Beckham or his wife Victoria, who long ago discovered the outer markers of global fame and overshot them.
The moveable feast that is their life inevitably prompts a slew of unusual and awkward requests, one of which landed a few minutes after Beckham, L.A. Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan and coach Bruce Arena took their seats in a cinder-block room in the bowels of Olympic Stadium.
A reporter from the TVA network’s Sucré Salé variety program asked Beckham to autograph a pair of white boxer briefs she’d brought along for the occasion, and strode up to the dais brandishing the undergarments and a green marker.
“I’d love to sign them for you,” the one-time underwear pitchman said with a smile as Arena sat cross-armed beside him.
Having suited up for Manchester United and Real Madrid, Beckham is accustomed to adulation, and considering the Galaxy and hometown Impact will play for a crowd of 60,000 Saturday, his star still has considerable gravitational pull. “There’s a lot of excitement here,” he said.
Asked how he felt about flogging soccer in a hockey-mad city, Beckham – a frequent spectator at Los Angeles Kings games – cracked wise: “I think we’re the hockey town at the moment. Sorry, I don’t want to offend anyone.”
Beckham also confirmed rumours he was once approached about joining the Impact’s ownership group.
“There was a little bit of truth to it,” he said. “I have that option in my contract, it’s something I’ve thought about, but I’m still playing, so it’s not right to own a team. … I met the guys, I think they’re great guys.”
There is also, of course, a game to be played, one that has consequences for both team and player. Beckham hopes to play for England either at this summer’s European championship or at the Olympics, and needs performances better than that in a loss last week with England Olympic manager Stuart Pearce in attendance.
“It wasn’t the best game for him to come to and watch, but it’s a good sign he was coming out to see me,” Beckham said. “Whether I play or not again we’ll see, but I always want to be available.”
Arena said he’s hopeful the defending champion Galaxy, who sit seventh in the west, can still recover from a poor start. “We look forward to them putting a push on over these next couple of weeks and start getting some results,” he said.
Beckham and his mates are 0-for-Canada this season, having drawn 2-2 with Toronto FC in March in the dramatic opening leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final tie L.A. went on to lose.
The 37-year-old midfielder curled in a memorable corner to create a late equalizer. He pointedly turned to a section of fans that had been hurling projectiles and insults at him as he stood over the ball.
“I hope the atmosphere [Saturday]is the same … minus the beer cans,” he said.
The Impact are mindful of the threat Beckham’s right boot poses from set pieces.
“He’s special,” said Montreal keeper Donovan Ricketts, who played for the Galaxy last year. “You have to stop him from taking set-pieces in the first place.”
To win on Saturday the visitors will have to overcome one of just two MLS sides who have yet to lose at home this season.
“It’s exciting for all of our players to play in front of these fans, we want to put performances together that make this city proud of who we are,” said Impact coach Jesse Marsch, whose team hasn’t lost a league game in a month.
Beckham copped to having a few run-ins with Marsch when he played for Chivas USA (“I kicked him a few times, he kicked me a few times”), and with Montreal striker Bernardo Corradi when the two were opponents in Serie A.
“We got into it a few times, but when I look back at my playing career, the guys that laid it all on the field and were great competitors, those were the hardest guys to play against, but those are the fondest memories you have,” Marsch said. “Guys like David, Ben Olson, Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Armas, guys who you just felt that for 90 minutes you were going to have to fight for every inch.”
Though Marsch has a few injury questions of his own, it appears he will make at least one change to a lineup that lost a dispiriting Amway Cup game to 10-man Toronto on Wednesday: prize defender Nelson Rivas, the MLS club’s first signing, will make his debut.
The Colombian central defender will likely be joined on the back line by Frenchman Hassoun Camara or by Scottish born Calum Mallace, one of whom will almost certainly start at right back in place of Jeb Brovsky.
It’s a defensive alignment that features plenty of height and heft, the Impact’s midfield could also feature some changes, Lamar Neagle practiced with the first team on the left side, Justin Mapp will step into an advanced role, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Patrice Bernier will likely move to the substitutes’ bench.
Regardless of who plays, this is plainly a challenge Montreal relishes. “We know all the city is excited for this game and we (are) too,” said Corradi, who is expected to open the game as the lone striker.