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Vandals deface portrait of Beckham at FIFA 100 exhibition

| Wednesday, June 30, 2004

LONDON -- Vandals defaced a portrait of England captain David Beckham at the Royal Academy of Arts, scrawling the words "you loosers" in indelible red felt pen.

The words on the 5-foot high picture are thought to have been deliberately misspelled in a reference to Beckham's alleged affair with his former personal secretary, Rebecca Loos.

Curator David Grob said Tuesday the words "Beckham and Meier, you loosers" were also scrawled on a wall at the FIFA 100 exhibition, commissioned by soccer's world governing body to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The vandalism also was aimed at Swiss referee Urs Meier, who disallowed a goal in the 90th minute that would have put England ahead 2-1 over Portugal last week in the quarterfinals of the European Championship.

England wound up losing 6-5 on penalty kicks. Beckham missed the first penalty attempt, sailing the ball high and wide over the crossbar.

"The picture is a write off," Grob said. "We have reported it to the police and we will have to get another one printed.

"It is enormously irritating. We hoped the academy would inspire everybody to good behavior. You do not expect people to act like football hooligans. It is very frustrating."

Grob said the academy had sold around 10 edition prints of the Beckham portrait at $13,500 each.

The Beckham portrait showed the 29-year-old star wearing a T-shirt and standing in a hotel corridor holding a soccer ball.

Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Adams, are two of the best known public figures in Britain.

An academy spokeswoman said police were investigating the crime.

Brazilian star Pele, who selected the list of the 125 greatest living players to be featured, had described the exhibit as a "fitting tribute" to FIFA and a "wonderful celebration of the beautiful game."

It is due to visit 12 other countries before finishing in Berlin in time for the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

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