Vol. 5 Num 418 Sat. July 30, 2005  

Real stars meet Thai PM

Real Madrid football stars led by England captain David Beckham met Friday with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of their friendly with the Thai under-23 side on the final leg of a world tour.

Five players from the Spanish powerhouse, dressed in blue and white track suits, presented the premier with a signed Real Madrid jersey, as their club president Florentino Perez sat for talks with Thaksin.

Beckham and teammates Roberto Carlos, Michael Owen, Raul Gonzalez and Jose Maria Gutierrez were warmly greeted by a beaming Thai leader and a host of ebullient staff at Government House.

"I'm a fan of Spice Girls," Thaksin quipped to Beckham, whose wife Victoria was Posh Spice in the 1990s pop group.

The premier, an avowed football fan who last year made a failed bid for English side Liverpool, is due to attend Friday's match with his cabinet, local reports said.

The team arrived in the kingdom Thursday from Japan and have promised a goal fest in their match with the Thai squad as a means of helping local survivors from December's deadly tsunami.

Match sponsors have pledged 200,000 baht (4,800 dollars) per goal scored at the Rajamangala Stadium to survivors of the December 26 Indian Ocean disaster that claimed nearly 5,400 lives in Thailand.

Real were winding up the Asian leg of their tour that has raised questions about their fading marketing magic in the region, with Beckham widely mocked for accusing Japanese player Kazuyuki Toda of spitting in his face during a 3-0 thrashing Monday by minnows Tokyo Verdy.