29 NOVEMBER 2007

After receiving a rapturous welcome in Australia, David Beckham is proving equally popular in New Zealand where he is on tour with his LA Galaxy team. The dad-of-three and his team-mates were greeted by hundreds of fans at Wellington airport, as well as the mayor and a party of indigenous Maori who gave him a hongi. The traditional Maori greeting involves pressing one’s nose to that of another person and meant Becks was no longer considered manuhiri, visitor, but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land.

He also found himself face to face with a bare-chested, spear-wielding warrior who made a series of threatening gestures to the British sports ace before laying a dart at his feet. The manner in which a visitor picks it up marks him as friend or foe and David's acceptance of it marked him as a friend.

"It's just nice to be able to visit a country and be given a welcome like that," said Becks afterwards. "The love and passion we’ve been shown by the people has been incredible."

While New Zealand may be rugby-playing territory, it seems the opportunity to see Goldenballs in action has boosted support for the beautiful game. Saturday’s match between LA Galaxy and Wellington Phoenix may fill the stands at the stadium, with 30,000 tickets already sold.

While proving a powerful draw himself, it appears the 32-year-old won't be joining another audience - that for the Spice Girl's first show on Sunday in Vancouver, Canada. His nervous wife has apparently banned him from attending. "One minute Victoria is saying she wants me there and then it's 'No, don't come to the first show as we'll all be too nervous'," he revealed. "I think I'll be at the show a couple of days later in San Jose and have the boys with me. And I know Victoria will ring me as soon as the first show ends... She says the rehearsals have gone amazingly well."

Photo: ©
The 32-year-old footie star receives a traditional hongi greeting from a member of the Maori welcoming party at Wellington airportPhoto: © RexClick on photo to enlarge