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Long wait continues for Beckham club's MLS home debut

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Miami (AFP)

David Beckham's six-year wait to watch his Major League Soccer club make its home debut, which was to have ended Saturday, has been extended by the league's coronavirus shutdown.

Beckham's Inter Miami was to have hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy, the MLS club where the former England and Manchester United star played from 2007 through 2012, in its first match at its temporary home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Instead, the entire league has joined all major North American sports leagues and shut down its season for 30 days due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

That left Inter Miami owner and president Beckham and his wife, Victoria, to post messages on Instagram with photos taken in an empty 20,000-seat stadium.

"It's times like these when we are reminded of the things that are truly important in life," Beckham posted on Instagram. "Our health. Our loved ones and looking after those that need support in our communities.

"In these moments, sports take a back seat. We must all listen to expert advice and do the right thing. Stay safe and look out for yourselves and your families."

Inter Miami still seeks a first-ever MLS triumph, having lost 1-0 at Los Angeles FC on March 1 and 2-1 at DC United six days later.

Those matches culminated a wild six-year effort filled with setbacks and frustrations.

Beckham, 44, came to the United States in 2007, the global icon leaving Real Madrid for a deal with the Galaxy that included the option to buy an MLS expansion club at a discounted price.

Over six seasons with the Galaxy, Beckham helped raise the sport's US profile and was a major contributor to the club's 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup titles.

After retiring in 2013, Beckham decided to exercise his option for an MLS expansion team in 2014 and sought to build a soccer-specific stadium in Miami.

Struggles with city leaders and civic groups followed, location after location foiled by one problem after another, and MLS hesitated to award a franchise to a group without a stadium plan set in place.

Beckham joined with Miami-based construction magnates Jorge and Jose Mas in 2017 and that represented a turning point in his quest.

In 2018, city officials approved construction of the Miami Freedom Park complex near Miami International Airport, its centerpiece being a new 25,000-seat stadium that is expected to be ready for Inter Miami to move into in 2022.

"Everything we've tried to do to get this franchise up and running was a challenge," Beckham said last month.

"There wasn't one (easy) thing -- from finding the land, thinking what kind of stadium we want, what kind of players we want, what kind of manager we want, even down to what tiles we had in the showers -- everything was a challenge.

"But I wasn't going to give up."

Perseverance has paid off with a new team and an optimistic future, even though it's uncertain for now just when Beckham will be able to join Miami supporters at a home match.

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