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Dubai braces for Beckham-mania

posted on 24/12/2008: 996 views

Crowds of fans are expected to follow the England footballer David Beckham when he arrives in Dubai next week with his new team, AC Milan.

The former Manchester United player is due to fly in on Monday before taking part in training sessions that will be open to the public and a friendly between Milan and Hamburg at Emirates Stadium on Jan 6.

Extra security is being brought in to deal with the public interest in Beckham, who has been loaned to the Italian side by Los Angeles Galaxy.

"Several AC Milan training camps will still be open to the public in the lead up to the [Hamburg] game, providing fans with some autograph opportunities,” said Karien Jonckherre of Promoseven, which is organising the team's off-field schedule.

The first 90-minute public training session will be held on Tuesday at Al Nasr Sports Club starting at 5pm. The second will be the following Friday at the same venue.

A source with the travelling AC Milan party said: "Beckham signing for the club means there will be more people at airports, at friendly matches and at sessions. His management has said they expect extra security to deal with this and so that is now being organised.”

The signing has met a mixed reaction in Italy, with critics claiming the player was signed for mainly commercial reasons.

But a Dubai-based AC Milan blogger known as Milanista said: "It is like a dream come true for fans that AC Milan are playing here. With the signing of David Beckham I'm sure we will win lots more fans to the club, especially females, such is his profile. Of course we have great players like the Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldinho, but no footballer is as famous as Beckham.”

Beckham's presence is also expected to generate interest in Milan merchandise. Gerard Clarke, a sales assistant at the Adidas store in Festival City, said extra stock of AC Milan shirts had been ordered after Beckham's attendance was confirmed.

Fifteen fans are also being given the chance to meet the footballer in a prize draw, and an autograph signing session is also being organised.

Milanista, however, warned that demand for autographs outstripped supply when AC Milan travelled to Dubai in January.

"The scenes at the Adidas shops were chaotic. Fans just wanted a signature but were forced to buy a shirt for Dh180 (US$50) if they wanted to join the autograph queue. The queues were about three hours long and in the end only 10 per cent were seen before the players left. With Beckham in town the queues could be even longer, especially if you add screaming girls to the mix.”

Anderson Toto, a supporter of LA Galaxy, suggested Beckham's impact on the pitch was not the primary motive for the move.

"I doubt whether Beckham will spend much time on the pitch for Milan. They lost a lot of revenue by failing to qualify for the [European] Champions League and they are hoping to recoup that with merchandising sales from Beckham's transfer. It is a business not a football decision.” Beckham will be on loan at Milan until March. It is thought the former England captain made the move to maintain his fitness during the close season in the US and extend his international career.

Foreign media reports have suggested that Beckham and his wife, Victoria, will be spending New Year's Eve as the guests of Tom Cruise, the Hollywood actor, at a party at the Atlantis, The Palm hotel. – The National


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