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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hawaii kids bicker over soccer shirt

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy reaches out to hand his jersey to young fans after a match against Gamba Osaka in February at Aloha Stadium.

Photos by JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The gesture touched off a tussle over the garment that has divided former best friends and set two families against each other.

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A benevolent gesture by soccer star David Beckham has ended in legal wrangling for two boys and their families over a jersey belonging to the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.

The parents of the boys, ages 9 and 10, have retained attorneys, and letters threatening a lawsuit have been sent back and forth.

For the first time in three years, the boys' friendship is in peril and the parents aren't speaking, a situation the general manager for the Galaxy, former soccer star Alexi Lalas, yesterday called a "pity."

"There are things certainly more important than soccer and David Beckham, and I say that as a huge supporter of both soccer and David," said Lalas, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "Even David Beckham isn't worth ruining a friendship that could possibly last a lifetime."

It started when the two boys, teammates in the Honolulu Bulls soccer club, held up bright orange Beckham signs in the front row at Aloha Stadium Feb. 22 in hopes their hero would give them his game jersey.

Following the match, Beckham ran over, pointed to one of the boys, and handed him his jersey.

Who Beckham meant to give the jersey to depends on whom you ask.

Each of the boys thought the star was pointing at him so they each laid claim, played jan ken po, and debated how to resolve the issue in the presence of their parents.

The 9-year-old had possession first, said his parents, Wilfred and Satomi Ho, so they felt he should keep the jersey.

But the 10-year-old held his sign the entire game and that's the reason Beckham came to them, said his parents, Eric and Yoshika Kerr.

The Kerrs suggested a solution.

The boys, best friends since 2005, would share the jersey and rotate possession once a week. Thinking the situation was resolved, the Kerrs dropped the issue until the next night, when the Hos offered the Kerrs' son another jersey, this one allegedly signed by Beckham during the intermission of the Galaxy game on Feb. 23.

The Kerrs say the signature looked forged. The Hos said they know someone who gained access to Beckham while he was in the locker room, and the jersey is authentic.

The following Friday, the Hos' son said he had the jersey and he shouldn't have to share it with anyone.

The Kerrs responded by hiring an attorney and sending a formal letter stating that if the jersey was not returned a lawsuit would follow.

"My son got it first from Mr. Beckham, directly. We agreed to let them borrow it from us, (but) before that happened we tried to clarify we were the owner and they proceeded to get upset so we never let them borrow it," Wilfred Ho said. "The jersey is my son's and I'm very upset with the behavior of the Kerrs and we'd prefer no more contact with them unless they apologize, but I don't foresee that.

"Our main argument for the jersey is that (my son) got possession first. Their claim is that (their son) is the one because he held the sign. Could be possibly true, but who can read David Beckham's mind?"

The Kerrs said their son was mystified why his best friend, with whom he has spent weekends and birthdays for the past three years, would do this. The Kerrs maintain they don't want sole possession but prefer to share the jersey.

Yoshika Kerr made the garish signs for the boys that read "Go Beckham" and "Aloha Beckham," but only their son held his sign against the railing for the entire game, she said.

"We want both boys to enjoy the moment, not just one boy," she said.

Eric Kerr said he told his son that Beckham noticed the sign because he ran right for the boys after blowing kisses in the corners of the stadium after the game.

"He (Beckham) pointed out that he wanted our son to have it. How do you explain this to a 10-year-old?" asked Eric Kerr. "It's been really hard on him. Why not let the kids share? He's such a big star and it's one heck of an experience for the boys. We just want (the Hos) to keep their end of the bargain."

Lalas, president and general manager of the Galaxy and a former member of the U.S. national team, said the situation is "ridiculous" and he is in "utter disbelief that it has gotten this far."

"This is a great opportunity to teach and learn a lesson about sharing," Lalas said.

"My suggestion is that the judge get a pair of scissors, cut the thing in half and give half to each," he said. "It's certainly not anything that we would ever want to have happen and certainly not anything that David or any of our players who hand out jerseys would have intended.

"This was a huge thing in any child's life and it's a pity that it has gotten to this point."

Glenn Lehrman with Rogers & Cowan, who serves as Beckham's U.S. publicist, declined comment.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.