Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bend It like Who?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bend It like Who?

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES LANGTON

Beckham is virtually unknown in America so British film will be promoted by star woman player Mia THE heartwarming story of a teenage Indian girl determined to play football became one of the most successful films in the history of British cinema. To make it big in America, however, Bend It Like Beckham must overcome one major handicap: the England captain himself.

Despite being one of the world's biggest sporting names, he is virtually unknown in the US. There football is relegated to the inside sports pages and the success of the American men's team in reaching the World Cup quarterfinals last year was soon forgotten.

So for the film's launch next month a household name - to Americans - has been signed up in the shape of female soccer star Mia Hamm.

"We thought about using Beckham's name, but it really wouldn't work," said Justin Edelman, a New York publicist for the film.

"He's really not that well known here, except perhaps as the husband of Posh Spice."

Fox Searchlight, which is distributing Bend It Like Beckham in the US, still believes it could be a huge hit Stateside where, while the men's game languishes in the popularity stakes, women's soccer is the fastest-growing sport. If the 10 million women and girls who regularly play decide to see the film, it could be a smash hit.

Olympic gold medallist Hamm is perhaps the most famous woman footballer in the world and America loves her for leading the US team to victory in the 1999 Women's World Cup. She will appear in trailers which play up the film's romantic side and the cultural clash.

"Really, it would have been better for us if it could have been renamed Bend it Like Mia," said Dan Courtemarche, head of publicity for Wusa, female soccer's organising body in America. "Beckham really doesn't mean anything here except to real enthusiasts. …

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