Beckham's licence to thrill in Singapore

SINGAPORE - His wife Victoria recently suggested that he would make "a good James Bond" but, already, David Beckham seems to have got elusiveness down to a T.

Granted, the former England football captain is probably some way away from playing super-spy on the silver screen. But he certainly was a difficult man to track down during a visit to Singapore this past weekend.

Just ask the 40-odd fans who turned up at Marina Bay Sands on Sunday morning, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the recently retired superstar.

Even as they milled about the ArtScience Museum, where Beckham was reportedly due to attend an event, their hero was already holding court in a private ballroom over at the Convention Centre.

Ask also the scores of curious onlookers who gathered outside Italian restaurant Osteria Mozza, while the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had his lunch in a private dining room.

And, of course, do not forget the group that raced up a downward- riding escalator, just to get up close and personal with "Goldenballs" himself.

With such a following, it is no wonder Beckham has such fond memories of Singapore.

"I've always had a lot of fun," the 38-year-old said of his two previous visits - with United in 2001 and again four years later, representing Great Britain, to help London win the hosting rights for the 2012 Olympic Games.

"A lot of fans here love the clubs that I've played for. And, I think, they like me as well."

Perhaps he was being humble; clearly, the word "like" was an understatement among those who on Sunday got up close and personal with the London native.

The excitement was palpable long before Beckham greeted the group of 60 youngsters - aged between eight and 17 - from the Guardian Academy and schools affiliated with the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

David Beckham launches Sands for Singapore FestivalClick on thumbnail to view (Photos: AFP, Reuters, Marina Bay Sands)

"I'm very happy to be able to meet him," gushed 12-year-old Amirul Afiq Razlan, a Manchester United and England fan. "I like the way he played and how he won so many honours."

It was not just the kids who enjoyed themselves, though; while Beckham posed for photographs and signed everything thrusted in his direction, the adults in the audience were also busy - clicking their cameras.

The fanfare - taking place eight years to the day he last left Singapore - was in support of MBS' corporate social responsibility initiative, Sands for Singapore.

"David shares our view of giving back to the community," the integrated resort's president and chief executive officer George Tanasijevich noted.

"We're always out there, looklooking for people whom we think can help make an impact here; people who are like-minded and want to support the community."

With over 25 charities under its wing, the initiative is MBS' way of engaging and giving back to society, as well as helping the needy.

Of this year's programme, the highlight is set to be the Sands for Singapore Festival from Aug 16-18. As part of the inaugural event, retailers in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands will donate items to be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to charity.

Dubbed "The Art of Shopping", the auction will feature a replica PSG shirt, which Beckham signed on Sunday.

"This is a very exciting initiative that MBS is undertaking to raise money," the superstar stressed. "It's a great thing and I'm very proud to be part of that."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg