David Beckham’s popularity forced his afternoon visit to Kendall Soccer Park to be cut short Wednesday.
The Englishman planned to spend roughly 45 minutes interacting with the 300 or so children who were having a short practice. However, Beckham’s arrival created bedlam on the field and a vast majority of the players never had a chance to get within 10 feet of the famous soccer player.
“It is chaos right now,” said Luis Coronado, the coach of the U-15 Miami Strike Force. “We didn’t want to get involved in the chaos and, unfortunately, some of the kids got disappointed because they wanted to see Beckham.”
The field was divided into four quadrants, each housing six or seven teams, and Beckham was supposed to visit with each team and chat for a couple of minutes and potentially take a picture, as well.
However, Beckham was surrounded by photographers while he was on the field and eventually parents, coaches and the players joined the fray.
Coronado said the teams were told not to request autographs, but many of the players joined the scrum specifically for that cause.
Spencer Bedoya, who plays for Coronado, was one of the players who did not get to see Beckham. He said he was angry that he didn’t get a chance to meet Beckham because he didn’t go to school because of his excitement.
“I was actually looking forward to this day,” Bedoya said. “We were asked to come here so he could teach us something, it was disorganized and it wasn’t a good environment.”
Xavier Campos approached the Beckham mass because he wanted to get his jersey signed. A member of the Southern Legion, a group of about 200 fans that was formed after the Miami Fusion was contracted in 2001, came to the event because the group was supposed to teach the children some of their chants.
But the 36-year-old from Miami ended up being scared away when he got close to Beckham and saw police pushing people away from the superstar. He said the police swung at and hit some of the children who were waiting to meet Beckham as they tried to control the situation.
Campos added he didn’t think anybody got hurt, and the police made the decision to escort Beckham back to his car. The Englishman never lost his smile through all the commotion.
“He was being super nice,” Campos said. “He was smiling at everyone, he was trying to reach out and shake hands with the kids, but the cops were making it impossible. … It definitely wasn’t his fault.”
The atmosphere in Kendall was the complete opposite of the one at the Perez Art Museum downtown Wednesday morning. With about 30 or so members of the Southern Legion in attendance, MLS commissioner Don Garber officially announced Beckham had exercised his option to purchase an MLS club and wanted to bring it to Miami.
Although the announcement that professional soccer will return to Miami is contingent upon a stadium deal, the optimism in the air was palpable. The Southern Legion burst into cheers at numerous points during the news conference and chanted “thank you Beckham” at the conclusion of the event.
Garber told the Miami Herald after the news conference the support was consistent with the thousands of emails and post on Twitter he received since the Fusion disbanded in 2001. He said he was confident if a stadium deal gets done, Miami-area residents will rally around the team.
“We always felt that there was a groundswell of support for MLS,” Garber said. “You need a great ownership group, you need a committed leader and owner, you need the support of the public sector and you need to have a great stadium.
“If we get all that done, we’ll have no issues whatsoever building a fan base, and these guys will be the core of it, it’ll be a lot of fun.”