Take a walk through the surrounds of Inter Miami’s new stadium here in Fort Lauderdale and there is little sense of the anticipation and excitement that will accompany David Beckham’s debut as franchise owner.
Fancy a conversation? The best you’re going to get is a mechanic from the neighbouring industrial units wondering why you are bothering them about soccer, or a mistrusting construction worker ordering you to leave the stadium site, for stories about delays have long since plagued the £50million project.
As for satisfying your thirst beneath the Florida sun, if you ask nicely at the Peace of Mind Pet Resort then you may get a saucer of milk, but a cold beer is a 25-minute walk away, at least according to Google Maps.
David Beckham will see his Inter Miami start their first MLS campaign on Sunday against LAFC
After six years of battling through various obstacles, the squad has assembled for game one
A kind-hearted soul in a high-vis jacket – working on the stadium’s final preparations – finally comes to our aid with a bottle of water.
You can bet your bottom dollar, however, that come their first home game of the MLS season – against LA Galaxy in just over a fortnight – there will be ample opportunity to dispense with your pretty green once inside the ground.
And it will be Beckham’s new side looking pretty in pink, the colour that will decorate the team’s shirts and dominate their modest 18,000-seater home, 35 miles north of downtown Miami.
For this is where the franchise have been forced to lay their inaugural foundations after facing resistance in their ambitious plans to develop at several sties nearer to the city, a move postponed until 2022 when it is hoped that Miami Freedom Park will open.
The franchise has had to start life in a downtrodden and deserted part of Fort Lauderdale
Beckham has admitted there were times when he thought his project would not succeed
Be it angry residents or business owners, traffic or sewage concerns, political red-tape or even soil contamination, Beckham has stumbled into them all in the six years since announcing his expansion franchise.
And that is why we find the Inter Miami Stadium here, in a relatively downtrodden and deserted part of Fort Lauderdale, some five miles inland from the beauty of the Atlantic waterfront.
At least there is easy access for Beckham. Next door – on Striker Boulevard – is the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, as well as a US Army Reserve. Beckham could well have been knocking on that door for some players given the scramble to assemble a squad over the past six months.
But now they are ready and raring for the big MLS kick-off, starting on Sunday at Los Angeles FC.
The club have already played friendly matches, and they are ready to go for their first season
Beckham, who is co-owner along with construction magnates Jorge and Jose Mas, said: ‘I am more persistent than I thought I was and more stubborn than my wife thinks I am. There wasn’t one moment when I was going to walk away.
‘I’m from east London, not Miami, so for me going there and trying to buy a piece of land, talking to politicians wasn’t getting us anywhere, funnily enough. But Jorge came to me and, the moment we met, I knew this was going to happen.
‘We want to be known as one of the best and most feared franchises in MLS. I want to create a legacy that my children can turn around in 20 years and say, “My dad helped build this club”.’
That is a sentiment shared by soccer fans in a part of Florida for whom the nearest MLS team before Beckham’s arrival was 230 miles away in Orlando.
Glenn Golba is an executive at the Palm Beach County Soccer League, and he told Sportsmail: ‘It’s such a multi-faceted community here in South Florida that it is a thriving area for football – the kids are mad for it.
Beckham has been the figurehead of the project, but attention will finally now turn to the pitch
‘Everyone cannot wait to have their own football club back here. It’s been a long time since the Fort Lauderdale Strikers departed (2001), and people are ready to embrace it, they really are.
‘There are so many people here who are huge David Beckham fans. His focus and intention is for the betterment of football.
‘In the initial phase it could be difficult on the pitch, but, as a fan, we will accept that. It’s about creating the environment to move forward, that is what the excitement is about. Beckham is a winner – it will take off.’
As the private jets roar into flight next door, it would appear the sky is the limit for Beckham and Inter Miami.