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Claudine shines alongside Robbie Keane during LA Galaxy debut

A goal, a win and a return for that famous cartwheel celebration: Robbie Keane hit the ground running during his LA Galaxy debut.

Replicas of his new number 14 shirt -- ranging in price from $89.95 to $169.95 -- were vying for popularity with David Beckham's famous number 23 jersey on Saturday night at The Home Depot stadium.

The 27,000-capacity stadium sold out -- something of a rarity since the early days of Beckham's arrival -- with most attracted by the first start for the Irish captain.

And he didn't disappoint, scoring after just 20 minutes in a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Christopher Cleary, from Dublin but living in Los Angeles, was dressed in an Ireland shirt and was with a large group of local friends.

"Of course, we're just delighted that Robbie's joined Galaxy.

"I train under-12s here in LA and it's fantastic that we can show them great players like Robbie here on their doorstep," he said.

Jimmy Parker, from Shercock, Co Cavan, was with his daughter Brenna, who was draped in a tricolour.

She plays under-15s soccer and their team played on the pitch for 10 minutes at half-time.

"As a striker, Robbie is going to bring so much value to the team," said Brenna. "It's so exciting. He's worth every penny."

But not everyone was convinced.

Jaime Gonzalez has been a fan of LA Galaxy all his life, but was lukewarm about its newest member.

"They are paying so much, but he has only a few years left in him," he said.

"What I want to know is if they are serious about building up MLS, why are they importing players near the end of their careers and not putting money into training local ones," he asked.

"I was also sad at what they did in getting rid of Juan Pablo Angel to make space for Robbie Keane."

If Keane's wife Claudine was worried, she certainly didn't show it -- cheering on her husband from the stands with other family members.

There was no sign of Victoria Beckham, however, amid suggestions that the former Spice Girl is less than impressed with a recent poll on a leading entertainment website comparing her looks with Claudine, the new arrival.

That battle currently stands at 1-0 to the Irish.

And Ireland shirts, caps and tricolours were in abundance before Saturday's big kick-off, while two enormous shamrocks had been painted on to the grass at the edge of the stadium

A troupe of very young Irish dancers in full regalia performed before kick-off, but stadium organisers stopped just short of employing a few leprechauns to welcome their new big name.

The Keanes' first few days in LA have resulted in a large amount of speculation about where the family are planning to live. Claudine and Robbie are staying at the five-star Ritz Carlton hotel in the city, and it is understood their young son, Robbie Jnr, is being looked after by relatives at home.

Beverly Hills is believed to be a likely neighbourhood for them to set up home, close to where the Beckhams bought their home.

But the Keanes will not want to follow the Beckhams' life too closely.

When they first came to LA in 2006, the Beckhams' arrival was preceded by an extensive media campaign and, in particular, simpering profiles of Victoria Beckham.

However, the LA public seemed to quickly grow tired of her and the expected media blitz and penetration did not continue.

After doing the rounds of the talkshows on first arriving, she had one bit-part in 'Ugly Betty', but nothing else since.

The media backlash against both David and Victoria has since died down but the couple are nothing like the powerful and influential celebrities they expected to become when they first arrived.

Victoria is rarely in the papers or on the covers of magazines in the US. Her fashion line is doing better business in the UK, as it is relatively invisible here.

How Robbie and Claudine plan to raise their profiles -- if that, as seems likely, is the plan -- remains to be seen.

But a goal on his debut was not a bad place to start.

"We're elated with Robbie," his new manager Bruce Arena said after the match.

"I think he had a great 70 minutes for us tonight, and we think there's a lot of great games ahead for Robbie and our team."

Belfast Telegraph


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