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Brand Becks grows in China, but can he help Chinese football?

David Beckham arrived in Beijing this morning to start the first of expected multiple visits to China in 2013 as he takes up the position of international ambassador for Chinese football. The trip will see him spend five days in China, visiting Chinese Super League clubs in Beijing, Qingdao, and Wuhan as well as some schools.

He arrived this morning in snowy Beijing and was quickly swept into a special, VIP hall of the airport, typically used by heads of state and important Chinese officials. Despite the unseasonably cool weather, many fans showed up at the airport to greet Beckham and he obliged by getting out of his car and greeting some of them.

This afternoon, Becks took part in a live press conference that was hosted by China’s national sports station, CCTV-5. The press conference included questions from Chinese students like “what is your favorite food?” and “how old are your children?” as well as some harder hitting questions.

When asked by a BBC reporter if he was being paid for his new role, Becks said “Right here right now? No.” However there are rumors he will earn tens of millions for his role.

During the press conference, Beckham talked very little about the Chinese domestic league and focused his comments on grassroots football in China. When the press conference ended, Beckham watched as students at a local school took part in football training, even joining in briefly.

The focus on grassroots is a positive as many wondered about the choice of Beckham, who has never played in the CSL and only played in China a few times, as the ambassador for the domestic league. Also, there was reason for concern when amounts, in some cases upwards of 50 million euros for five years, were being discussed as Beckham’s salary as ambassador.

Response from Chinese football fans regarding Beckham’s arrival was generally tepid, as many wondered what good Beckham could really do, while others couldn’t understand the choice of David Beckham. The reality is that Becks can do absolutely nothing to “promote” the CSL and that this is no use to anyone outside of “Brand Beckham”, unless he does take serious steps to promote the game at the grassroots level and that is highly unlikely.

What this all could mean, of course, and what Goldenballs didn’t deny during the press conference, is the possibility that Beckham could be coming to China during the summer transfer window. If that were to happen, he could seriously serve as an ambassador to the league and it would create off the charts interest, like Didier Drogba’s arrival last season on steroids. But that, like Becks’ impact (if any) will have, that very much remains to be seen.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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