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Football: Beckham plays down China image hopes

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Football superstar David Beckham played down expectations he can improve the battered image of the Chinese game as officials Wednesday unveiled him as the sport's ambassador in the country.

The former England international's new role has been widely seen as an ambitious attempt by the Chinese Super League to recover from years of match-fixing and corruption involving players, referees and officials.

A three-year inquiry culminated last month in 33 people being banned for life and several clubs fined and docked points.

But the 37-year-old, who is on a five-day visit to China while his current club Paris Saint-Germain are on a break for international fixtures, said his focus was on developing the sport at grassroots level.

"What has gone on in the past? I am not a politician so I have nothing to do with it," he told a press conference in Beijing.

"I am helping in the education for young kids and young aspiring footballers. It's as simple as that. I am not here to clear up anything. I am here to educate the children and give them a chance of becoming professional footballers."

Beckham, who is known as "Little Becks" in China, said he was not being paid.

Chinese media have quoted Chinese Super League officials as saying he would receive a salary of two million euros ($2.6 million) from one of the world's biggest sports agencies.

But he said: "There are no figures attached. I am here as an ambassador, simple as that. There is always figures thrown about what I am doing with my life, but right now I am playing football for free in Paris and I am here as an ambassador."

He was again asked if he was being paid, and responded: "Right here, right now? No!"

Chinese football fans have been eagerly anticipating Beckham's arrival since it was revealed he would become involved in the domestic sport last month.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130320/football-beckham-plays-down-china-image-hopes