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from Photographers' Blog:

Beckham’s final 81st minute

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Paris, France

By Gonzalo Fuentes

Since David Beckham arrived in Paris the media have captured every move, every training session, every single time he and his family have roamed around the city.

The infrastructure of the Paris Saint Germain (PSG) stadium was upgraded to handle all the media that he attracts. The media in Paris was ready to follow all his actions as evidenced when 150 journalists were accredited to cover the presentation of his PSG jersey.

While covering his first match, I was able to capture an emblematic picture that I was hoping to shoot. Beckham ran and embraced Swedish team mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic to celebrate scoring, providing me with an image of a true team player. As the French tournament continued, Beckham did what he does best, which was to spread himself among the team, while becoming one of the key leaders.

For the last home match of the season, I arrived at the stadium in advance to install my equipment. The night announced itself as a long one. It was pouring rain and Paris Saint-Germain was already the winner of the French League. This could have been the most irrelevant match if it was not for the fact that this night was to be the last soccer match of one of the most defining figures in soccer.

Fergie the old hand shows softer side…for a bit

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By Simon Hart

For a brief moment, it seemed Sir Alex Ferguson really might be mellowing with age.

Twenty-four hours after ending his seven-year feud with the BBC, the Manchester United manager spent part of his weekly news conference on Friday defending the record of his erstwhile chief adversary Arsene Wenger, who comes to Old Trafford with Arsenal on Sunday.

Soccer Break Wednesday – Money buys success

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Cash, dollars, bucks, dough, call it what you want, it paves the way for football clubs to be successful.

On Tuesday the bank-rolled Manchester City outfit reached the Champions League qualifiers for next season and could even secure an automatic berth if they pip Arsenal to third place in the Premier League. That would be a real kick in the guts to Arsene Wenger, who has barely spent anything in comparison to City since he took over the North Londoners in 1996.

Good Soccer Break Friday

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NBA/It’s Easter weekend but there’s no rest for the world’s football players with another hectic schedule of matches.

To bring you up to date with all of the major European leagues, read our Serie A, Ligue 1, Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga previews ahead of the next round of matches.

Soccer Break Friday – Clasico fever rises

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SOCCER-SPAIN/CLASICOOnly one day to go now until Real Madrid face Barcelona in La Liga for the first of four ‘clasicos’ between Saturday and May 3. Excited? You will be now…

Barcelona destroyed their fierce domestic rivals 5-0 in November, and although the gap at the top of La Liga remains difficult for Real to peg back, they looked a very difficult team to beat against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Soccer Break Tuesday

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SOCCER-ITALY/AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi seriously believes he can sign Cristiano Ronaldo in the next transfer window. Where did that one come from? Probably because of his frustration with Zlatan ibrahimovic for being sent off for swearing and banned for three games (see Wayne, the punshment is even worse in Italy).

Of course Berlusconi has no chance of landing Ronaldo but he’s a politician and positive thinking can do the world of good.

Soccer Break Friday

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SOCCER-EURO/SPAINIt’s gone quiet on the football news front though the sun’s still out in Europe as we await another weekend of unrelenting on-pitch drama in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Anyone out there lucky enough to be attending the Serbia v Northern Ireland match? 240 fans got the nod.

Soccer Break Thursday

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONSGareth Bale. The dashing Welsh winger primed to scare the living daylights out of England on Saturday. Injured. Did anyone else hear that collective sigh of relief from England fans today?

But what about Tottenham Hotspur fans. Are you worried your star man’s recent struggles with injury could hamper your club’s Champions League quarter-final chances against Real Madrid?

Beckham bashers have got it wrong

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SOCCER-MLS/

By Simon Evans in Miami

Television coverage of MLS’s opening game began with an attack on David Beckham from two television pundits and critics have continued to question whether the Englishman cares about the league or his club, LA Galaxy, Simon Evans says the Beckham bashing is off target.

The debate over David Beckham’s commitment to L.A Galaxy and Major League Soccer should have ended on November 22, 2009. On that rainy, cold day in Seattle, Beckham took a series of pain-killing injections, wrapped up his injured ankle in bandage and went out to face Real Salt Lake on the unforgiving artificial turf at Qwest Field.

Ten things to watch for in the new MLS season

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BECKHAM DONOVAN

YOUNG AMERICANS
MLS’s foreign imports have grabbed most of the headlines over the past few years, understandably given the name recognition of players such as David Beckham and Thierry Henry, but one of the most fascinating aspects of this season will be the progress of a new generation of American players on the fringe of the national team. Sporting KC striker Teal Bunbury and New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo are fancied by many as a future pairing for Bob Bradley’s team but they will need to deliver week-in-week-out in MLS. Red Bulls defender Tim Ream had an excellent first year and will likely be scouted heavily by European clubs this season. Portland Timbers attacker Darlington Nagbe was born in Liberia but is seeking naturalization and there is a lot of buzz about his potential.

DIG THE NEW BREED
The Pacific North-West should provide plenty of lively derby action this year with the Seattle Sounders, the best-supported team in the league, joined by two new teams — local rivals Portland Timbers and Northern neighbours Vancouver Whitecaps. Both clubs are technically ‘expansion franchises’ but don’t confuse them with recent creations such as the Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake who started from scratch. Both the Timbers and the Whitecaps existed in the old NASL and continued in second tier soccer up until last season. Both have good fan-bases who expect an instant impact. Both were able to build upon their backroom and on-field staff from the second tier. In short – both are more like typical promoted teams in European leagues – they have to step up to a new level on the field and can expect some fresh impetus off the field. It should be fascinating to watch how they fare in their first season with the big boys. Who will make the bigger impact?

SHINY, HAPPY PEOPLE?

The Kansas City Wizards were not one of MLS’s big success stories having averaged crowds of around 10,000 for most of their existence – initially playing at the 80,000 capacity Arrowhead Stadium, home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and then at a cozier but not-very soccer friendly minor-league baseball park. This season all that changes. The rather silly-sounding Wizards name has been dropped in favour of Sporting Kansas City – mocked by some as being a pretentious Euro-wannabe name (Sporting Club being a historic team in Lisbon, Portugal) but surely an upgrade on the Wizards? This season the team also move into their own, shiny new, purpose built 18,500 venue – Livestrong Sporting Park. The venue isn’t quite ready so the first eight games of the season for Sporting will be on the road but it will be interesting to see if the rebrand and the new home manage to attract more fans. That certainly helped New York Red Bulls last year – when they moved into Red Bull Arena their average home gate rose from 12,229 to 18,441.

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