TACLOBAN, Philippines – Football superstar David Beckham visited the Philippines on Thursday to give comfort to survivors of the Asian country’s deadliest ever typhoon – although not everyone was sure of his identity.
Hundreds of survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan rushed out of their tent shelters to welcome the global celebrity, who is nevertheless unfamiliar to many citizens of the Philippines, where basketball rather than soccer is king.
“He’s so handsome. I heard he plays for the Azkals,” gushed mother-of-four Darilyn Bascug, referring to the Philippines’ national football team.
The 38-year-old ex-England international, who ended his illustrious career last year, is on his second visit to the Philippines in his role as a “goodwill ambassador” for the UN Children’s Fund.
He flew by private plane Thursday to Tacloban, one of the areas worst-hit by Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) which left about 8,000 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November last year.
The tattooed Beckham, casually dressed in a black UNICEF T-shirt, visited a tent city for several hundred families who lost their homes when giant waves unleashed by Haiyan crashed into Tacloban’s coast.
He entered one tent for an extended chat with its occupants.
Bascug, a carpenter’s wife who is among those waiting for a new home, admitted she did not really know Beckham that well. Neither had she heard of his wife Victoria, formerly of the Spice Girls.
Shortly after Beckham’s arrival, another woman from the area approached an AFP reporter and asked timidly: “Is that man a celebrity?”
Beckham last visited the Philippines in December 2011, where he played a seven-a-side football match with young Filipinos at a government-run centre for abused or abandoned children.
David Beckham was one of the first international stars to appeal for help for the typhoon-ravaged section Visayan region, appealing for international aid in a column for the British newspaper the Mirror. In a piece dated November 18, Beckham wrote, “As a father I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children and I am sure you feel the same – but for those families in the Philippines facing an uncertain future, they need you to do something.”
Shortly after, Beckham and his wife Victoria sold off 20 boxes of their expensive designer personal clothing to raise money for relief efforts. The items included 100 pairs of Victoria’s heels and Beckhams trademark baseball caps.
Beckham retired from football in May of 2013 with 129 career goals in 719 appearances for Manchester United, Real Madrid, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Milan, among other clubs in a career that began in 1992.
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