At least 500 fans mobbed David Beckham in Shanghai on Thursday as he was visiting a local university football team, resulting in at least five injured.
State broadcaster CCTV said Beckham was on his way to meet school authorities when a mob of fans rushed at him.
Students and fans braved barbed wire fences and climbed over vehicles and bleachers to enter the heavily-guarded football stadium to get a glimpse of their football hero. As Beckham walked through the stadium's iron gate, security guards were unable to prevent what became a stampede that began rushing into the stadium, CCTV said.
Yang Ruocheng, a college senior at Tongji University, said the fans were merely "enthusiastic".
"I think that the main problem for the hosting organisation might be that for us students we were all so 'enthusiastic' when we saw him. In China we call it 'enthusiastic. For him, it might seem like a mess, but I just feel that this is what we Chinese football fans call 'enthusiastic,'" said Yang.
In the wake of the stampede, discarded shoes and smashed glasses could be seen on the field.
Another witness said the mob probably left a bad impression on Beckham.
"Beckham didn't finish what he scheduled to do here because of the today's disorder. He just walked around in the field and left. I think the impression of Tongji University in Beckham's mind must be bad. It's left a terrible impression has been on him," said 19-year-old Tongji University student Zhou Xiru.
The scheduled training session was cancelled, CCTV added.
Before he was mobbed by fans, Beckham held a media conference hosted by the Shanghai Football Association.
Commenting on his role as global football ambassador to a league notorious for corruption scandals, Beckham said he wanted to focus on the future and not dwell on the past.
"And people questioned why I wanted to be involved in something that, like I said in the past, had a bad name or there was corruption involved. For me, the past is the past, this is the future. I'm excited about the future, I'm excited about a league that is in a very good position right now," Beckham told media.
In March, China named the former England captain as its global soccer ambassador to revive the game's image which has been hit by a match-fixing scandal and an exodus of international stalwarts from the country's premier league.
In his new role, Beckham is expected to help bring the Chinese Super League (CSL) to the world stage and promote the game in the world's most populous country.
One of the most recognisable footballers across the globe, 38-year-old Beckham served as a special ambassador for last year's London Olympics.
Former England captain David Beckham addresses a news conference in Shanghai June 20, 2013 (Reuters)
- Sports & Recreation
- David Beckham
- Tongji University