SINGAPORE - When former England and Manchester United icon David Beckham was younger, he was once told that he was "too small and not strong enough" and would never play for the Three Lions.
But Beckham went on to have a storied career, racking up 115 appearances for England and captaining the team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and he urged younger aspiring athletes to block out the noise and believe in themselves.
The 47-year-old was in town on Friday (June 17) to attend an Adidas talk show titled "We got this 2.0" - an exclusive event at its Orchard Brand Centre. About 200 guests - most of whom had won invites via a giveaway- attended the event alongside other panellists like Lions forward Ikhsan Fandi and celebrities and local personalities, Christabel Chua and Jade Rasif.
Beckham said: "I was always a very quiet kid off the pitch. I didn't say much. I was short. I was skinny. I wasn't strong enough. I was told at a very young age that I wouldn't play for my country because I was too small and not strong enough.
"But I always believed in myself. I was confident when I was on the pitch, but off the pitch, I was totally different. So I think ambitions are about believing in yourselves. I have four children and I want to see them have dreams and ambitions.
"When you have ambitions, you have to have belief in yourself."
Known for his good looks and style, Beckham was also one of the best players of his generation. The wide midfielder won numerous titles with United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite hanging up his boots in 2013, Beckham, who signed a lifetime deal with Adidas reportedly worth US$160 million (S$220 million)in 2003 and has visited the Republic on several occasions, has retained his star power.
A day before the event, Adidas Singapore had sent out an advisory on social media to deter members of the public from showing up at Orchard as there was no meet-and-greet, public-facing session planned. But that did not stop at least 250 fans of all ages from squeezing outside the store to try and get a glimpse of the superstar.
Inside the venue, shrieks, screams and camera-carrying fans had their eyes and lenses fixed on Beckham from the moment he was introduced by host Joakim Gomez.
Women gushed while men swooned over Beckham, as beads of sweat trickled down Gomez's forehead as he sat beside the icon.
Ikhsan, who days ago scored his first hat-trick for Singapore during a 6-2 win over Myanmar, had his eyes glued on Beckham throughout the 45-minute event and said he was "star-struck" after meeting the Englishman, who is now the co-owner and president of Inter Miami, a club in Major League Soccer in the United States.
But perhaps no one will be more over the moon than Indonesian entrepreneur Marcelo David Candra, 24, who spent $1,800 on flight and accommodation so that he could be here for Beckham's appearance.
He arrived from Jakarta on Thursday night and the overwhelmed fan got more than what he came for when he exchanged a hug with Beckham.
Said Marcelo: "It is such an honour for me to finally meet my number one idol in my whole life. I actually came from Indonesia to Singapore just for today, I've been the biggest fan my whole life. It is a dream come true to meet him live. I even got the chance to hug him personally, I can't believe it happened. This is the best day of my life ever.
"He (Beckham) is really my number one in my life in anything, second after God."
It may be approaching a decade since Beckham's retirement from football but Asia's enthusiasm for the football icon is showing no signs of fading.
- Additional reporting by Kimberly Kwek