Never a stranger to the big stage, David Beckham was finally overwhelmed and reduced to tears as he went out in a burst of fireworks and cheers Saturday in his final home game for Paris Saint-Germain before retirement.
Fans chanted his name before the game, and they chanted some more when he is done. There was an outpouring of hugs, cheers, songs and greeting – from teammates, opponents and even former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
There are also some soccer to play. And Beckham, appointed captain for the game, was involved in two goals of his team to a 3-1 victory over Brest.
He drew a roaring standing applause and wiped away tears when he left in 81 minutes. As the match drew to a close, Beckham appeared to tire, putting his hands on his thighs as he leaned forward.
” I want to say thank you to everyone in Paris. To my teammates, to the staff, the fans,” Beckham said the fans after the game. ” It has become very special to finish my career here. It can not become any more special.”
One after another, the players then walked onto the makeshift platform in the middle of the field and thanked the crowd after the game has ended.
When it was Beckham’s turn to climb onto the podium, the Beatles song `Hello, Goodbye ‘rang out as the big stadium screen beamed images of short PSG Beckham’s career and flashed another message of gratitude.
Draped in the English flag, Beckham sprinted onto the stage.
” Merci, Paris,” he said. ” I’m very sad to leave, but thank you.”
When Beckham has gone off, most people, including Sarkozy, stood as one and players trotted over to give him a hug. The players from Brest also understood shortly. Charlison Benschop, who scored a consolation goal Brest minutes earlier, walked over to shake his hand.
With chants of” DAV-eed Beckham, Beckham DAV-eed” echoing, Beckham looked to be on the verge of tears. He applauded the crowd and blew a kiss to his family in the stands. There was time for one more hug – this one a bit longer from coach Carlo Ancelotti – before he sat on the bench, perhaps for the last time.
The former England captain announced Thursday he is retiring at the end of the season.
” I just feel that this is the right time. I feel that I have achieved everything I can in my career. I wanted to go out as a champion,” Beckham said. ” I ended my career with a team that has treated me like I had gone here for 10 years.
Beckham has yet to say whether he will play in the final game of PSG, in Lorient on May 26.
” This is a historic moment,” the stadium announcer intoned as Beckham was substituted. Not that the crowd of 44 983 needed a reminder.
Like Beckham walked off slowly, applauding the fans, his hair uncharacteristically bedraggled, her mother, Sandra, wiped away tears in the stands.
His successor, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Beckham gave a big hug and then ruffled the hair fashion maven. Beckham immediately swept it back into place.
After the final whistle, Beckham’s teammates hoisted off the ground and repeatedly tossed him into the air, putting a smile back on his face.
The festival kicked in as the lights were turned off, light sticks are held up and the crowd broke into song. The fireworks then flew the night sky, accompanied by a `ole! ‘As every one went off.
” After 22 years of playing football I’m going to take a few months to enjoy time with my family,” Beckham said, before adding that he still wants to stay involved with PSG. ” It has become a very special place for me.”
Before the game, the 38-year-old English was given a rousing reception at the Parc des Princes. Audience broke into chants of” Merci, David” when his name was read over the stadium speakers.
PSG’s players walked onto the field to a thunderous reception, with Nirvana’s” Smells like Teen Spirit” explains. PSG right back Christophe Jallet dyed her hair blue, white and red of the French flag while the players all wore jersey team next season’s.
The game brought a stronger security presence, there are about 150 riot police forming a ring inside the stadium in the second half. The show of force followed Monday night riots Trocadero plaza, where a celebration to mark the French title turned violent.
It was Beckham’s 14th game and fifth start since joining PSG in a surprise move last day of the transfer window. He was appointed captain before the game.
PSG clinched the league title last weekend, Beckham making the first English player to win the championship in four countries after title success at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Los Angeles Galaxy.
Beckham was involved in the opening goal in the seventh minute. His free kick found Clement Chantome, whose pass kakalabas Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he broke into the penalty area down the right side. Ibrahimovic struck the ball into the opposite corner.
Ibrahimovic almost scored a minute later when Beckham’s superb long pass sent by him, but the surprisingly Swedish hesitated between heading the ball over goalkeeper Alexis Thebaux or taking it past him. Theabaux snatched the ball from him.
Beckham set up the second goal in 32 with a corner kick from the left. Poor Blaise Matuidi hit the ball’s bounce onto the ground and looped over Thebaux’s outstretched arm. Ibrahimovic blasted a free kick from 30 yards into the top left corner for the third goal, setting a personal record with his 29th league goal of the season.
Early in the second half, mostly Beckham set up striker Kevin Gameiro with a curling cross from the right to the striker headed wide.
It will not be long before Beckham is gone, but the noise and the celebration and fireworks still had a ways to go.