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Latinos not feeling buzz for Beckham

August 04, 2007|Jaime Cárdenas | Times Staff Writer

After a recent Chivas USA practice, captain Claudio Suarez and forward Maykel Galindo were approached by a boy no older than 9.

He offered some suggestions to the players about what they should do when they play the Galaxy and its newest star, David Beckham. "You should kick him right there," the boy said, motioning with a kick to the groin. "And hit him like this," he added, simulating an elbow to the body.

Suarez and Galindo started laughing at his suggestions.

On the field, the Beckham era is off to a slow start because his ankle injury has limited him to one token appearance in a Galaxy uniform.

But Major League Soccer signed Beckham in hopes of jump-starting the league's appeal to a wider group of fans. So far, the Beckham buzz hasn't seemed to reach many fans in the large Latino community in greater Los Angeles, a soccer-crazy demographic that the MLS obviously hopes to tap.

"I mean, Latinos are Latinos and Beckham is from England," said Rolando Ramos, who attended last weekend's Chivas de Guadalajara-Galaxy match at the Coliseum. Ramos, an L.A. resident, says he believes Latinos will cheer only for other Latino players.

Oscar Muñoz, 37, a West Covina resident, is a lifelong Guadalajara fan, and when he gets a day off he brings his daughter to Chivas USA practices.

So he was at the Home Depot Center watching Chivas USA practice last month on the same day Beckham was introduced to the media. Muñoz, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, says he thinks it's not out of the question that fans will eventually warm up to Beckham, but that it's not going to be easy.

"He's going to have to win the Latin people little by little," he said. "Because he's more of an actor. I think he's going to be more of an actor than a soccer player."

Despite repeated claims by Beckham, 32, that he came here to help the sport and MLS grow, some fans doubt him.

Josue Sanchez Sr., who watched the Galaxy-Guadalajara game with his 18-year-old son, said Beckham would have been a fool to turn down the money he was offered to play in the U.S.

"He's not a player that's going to save the team or change the MLS. It's all marketing," Sanchez said. "He didn't come here to play, he came here for the money."

His son, Josue Sanchez Jr., with his face painted in the Chivas' red, white and blue colors and wearing a Chivas flag as a cape, called Beckham's signing "a big show."

"One man can't change anything in soccer. It takes 11 players. It's all publicity," he said.

Cristian Echeverria, a soccer writer for La Opinion, says he believes that Latino fans will eventually support Beckham. He theorizes that Beckham's lingering ankle injury has a lot to do with this early resentment.

"People, they just don't understand injuries," Echeverria said. "They are anxious to see him and he hasn't even started. The fans are just disappointed. . . . It's like fraud."

Daniel Torres, 22, a Galaxy fan wearing the new Beckham home-white jersey to the recent Guadalajara-Galaxy match, also believes that Latinos will eventually support Beckham. But he suggested the easiest way to win Latino fans in Los Angeles is to sign a star Mexican player.

"Without a Mexican player, the Mexican fans are not going to support," said Torres, who quickly added, "but not a washed-up Mexican."

MLS has signed some Mexican players -- including Jorge Campos, Luis Hernandez and Carlos Hermosillo -- but most have been at the tail end of their career.

Jaime Miranda, 31, is a lifelong Chivas fan dating to his days in Guadalajara. He was watching a Chivas USA match recently and said he wasn't excited about Beckham's arrival.

"Honestly, I don't like him as a player. He's not exciting, much to be desired." Miranda said. "I would prefer a Mexican player instead" signed to a big MLS contract. "An Omar Bravo, Bofo Bautista, someone like that. We want to see our own people."

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jaime.cá rdenas@latimes.com

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