Finally, It’s Beck’s Day in L.A.

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

CARSON, Calif. – Soccer superstar and pop culture “it” guy David Beckham has arrived in Southern California, where he will be introduced as the newest _ and by far most the most luminous _ star of the Galaxy.

The 32-year-old midfielder signed a five-year contract with Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy in January that will pay him $32.5 million in salary.

He then played out his contract with Real Madrid, where he escaped Fabio Capello’s doghouse by showing he still can “bend it” on free kicks like maybe no other player in the world. Coming on strong late in the season, Beckham helped Real Madrid win the Spanish League title last month.

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His play also was impressive enough for him to regain a spot on England’s national team, which he formerly captained.

He and wife Victoria, aka Posh Spice, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night from London to begin their new lives in America. Dozens of reporters and photographers, many of them paparazzi, jostled behind barriers set up in the terminal as sports’ royal couple strolled past on their way to a waiting black sport utility vehicle.

Surrounded by security guards, the couple did not comment.

Victoria Beckham wore a sleeveless black dress and sunglasses and gave a cursory wave to the paparazzi. David Beckham, looking very L.A., wore a black jacket and jeans.

Their three children accompanied them on the flight, but weren’t with them as they left the airport.

Several people waiting at the airport became paparazzi themselves, snapping images with cell phones.

“It was so awesome, he looks better in person than in the magazines,” said devoted Beckham fan Priscilla Flores, 15. “I’m really excited to see him play his first game here. He’ll make soccer more popular here.”

The media swarm also attracted curious onlookers, though not everyone knew what the big deal was.

“Who’s David Beckham?” asked Austin Baker, an 11-year-old California boy waiting for a connecting flight.

Although Beckham has insisted it wasn’t the lure of Hollywood that landed him in Los Angeles, he and his wife arrive in Tinseltown with enough star qualities to move them near the top of the glitterati.

They rate Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes among their best friends, and Victoria will be featured in a one-hour special on NBC on July 16 titled “Victoria Beckham: Coming to America.”

Still, Beckham has said his focus would be on the soccer pitch and not on Hollywood glitz.

“I’m coming there not to be a superstar. I’m coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things,” he said shortly after signing with the Galaxy.

“With me, it’s about football. I’m coming there to make a difference. I’m coming there to play football.”

Beckham, who already has one youth soccer academy in Carson and another in London, also hopes to raise interest in the sport in America to a new level.

He acknowledged that his playing in the MLS would not make the sport transcend baseball, basketball and American football, but he said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could make a difference.”

Beckham’s first game for the Galaxy will be an exhibition against a foe familiar to him, Chelsea FC of the English Premier League, on July 21 at the Galaxy’s stadium in Carson.

He joins a Galaxy squad badly in need of a boost. Los Angeles, which is 3-5-4 in MLS play, has three exhibitions scheduled before Beckham and new teammates Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones and crew, are scheduled to face another MLS team, on July 31 at Dallas.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)