CARSON, Calif. (Friday, July 20, 2007) -- Signing David Beckham to a long-term contract was a brilliant move by the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer, but the team and league are now showing considerable short-sightedness in pressuring their new superstar to play in tomorrow night's exhibition between the Galaxy and English power Chelsea.
The Galaxy game against Chelsea, part of the World Series of Football, will be televised by ESPN at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
Beckham originally hurt his ankle playing for England in a 3-0 victory June 6 over Estonia in a 2008 European Championship qualifier. He aggravated it June 17 in his final club match with Real Madrid.
The ankle was too swollen and painful for Beckham to participate Monday in his first practice with the Galaxy and the former England captain made it very clear he did not feel he would be able to go against Chelsea despite an intense desire to do so. MLS and Galaxy management are choosing not to listen.
"I'm still having a lot of treatment. At the moment it doesn't look good that I'm going to play because the swelling is still there,'' Beckham said during a halftime interview during the Thursday night broadcast of the MLS All-Star Game. "I'm here for five years. I'm not here just obviously for the game on Saturday.
"It's great that Chelsea is here. It's great to have great players, and a great team, great manager here. But I think it's more important for me personally that my ankle is right and I don't think it will be right for the game."
After being pressed further in the same interview about the possibility of at least making an appearance, Beckham conceded, "Maybe I'll play some part toward the end of the game if it's all right, but we'll see."
What ESPN, MLS and the Galaxy are facing is a huge, international television with their star performer absent. What impression a token appearance by an immobile Beckham is going to accomplish is hard to decipher and would seemed to be outweighed by the risk of further injury.
So the three entities continue to promote Beckham's appearance in the match. "We still anticipate that he's going to play (against Chelsea), to what extent we don't know,'' Lalas told Associated Press yesterday. "We don't want to do anything that's going to jeopardize the long-term success and his health. He's been getting better every single day, but we're just going to have to wait until the day and figure it out then. So, all hope isn't lost for Saturday night.
"There's a possibility that's he's going to play. I think it's pretty clear that he wants to play. From the time that he landed here, he was targeting Saturday to play. I think that if there's any chance it's possible, he's going to be out there."
Lalas said whether Beckham plays will solely be decided by the Galaxy. "Ultimately, it's up to our coaching staff and our medical staff to evaluate our players,'' he said. "We all understand there's an incredible amount of interest in this game from television, from sponsors, but this is sports. The sponsors understand that. Regardless of whether David Beckham is or isn't on the field, it's going to be a wonderful moment for us Saturday. But I think we all hope he does get on the field.''
After the Chelsea game, Los Angeles faces an intense schedule with three matches in the new Superliga -- a tournament between four MLS teams and four MLS clubs -- in the following 11 days before returning to league play with a visit to Toronto FC on August 5.