Global football superstar David Beckham is in China again in his new capacity as ‘global ambassador’ for Chinese football. Yet when he arrived in his Bentley for a promotional event on a Shanghai university campus yesterday, he proved too hot to handle for the large and excited young crowd at Tongji University. The front page of the Beijing Morning Post today shows a bleeding official being carried away for medical attention after being trampled when thousands of students rushed forward to get a look at Little Bei 小贝, as he is affectionately described in the Chinese media. Amid the chaos, Beckham soon departed and the event was cancelled.
Just after lunchtime yesterday, Beckham arrived on the campus of Tongji University in a Bentley. Students lined the streets on campus in his honor. As his car approached the sports field where he was to participate in a promotional activity, guards had to clear away people so his car could approach the entrance. But there were so many students in attendance that the guards felt compelled to close the main gate to the sports field. Once Little Bei appeared, the crowd became excited and chaos ensued when the students rushed the fence, causing five or six people to be injured, although none critically. The activity that he was supposed to have participated in on campus was immediately cancelled. Later one of the journalists noted that a stack of shoes and backpacks had been left strewn behind in front of the fence.
According to eyewitnesses, there were around four or five thousand people in attendance, and when Beckham arrived many tried to push forward to see him with their own eyes. Some tried to climb up trees or walls, while others rushed to the entrance where Beckham appeared. Three police officers and two security guards were trampled. Beijing Morning Post also says that two students were lightly injured, one of which was from Japan.
Later in the day when he had heard of the injuries, Beckham posted messages of support and a quick recovery for the injured on his Weibo. In March this year Beckham was in China to be appointed as a “global ambassador” for Chinese football. For administrators of the game in China, Beckham forms part of an attempt to raise enthusiasm for the game in China where decades of scandal and corruption have alienated many fans.