Football superstar David Beckham said Thursday he sees a "bright" future for the Chinese game despite past corruption scandals and the dismal performance of the national team.
Visiting Shanghai as ambassador to the Chinese Super League (CSL), the recently-retired former England captain defended his decision to take up the role, which has been viewed as an ambitious attempt by the football authorities to improve the battered image of the Chinese game.
"People questioned why I wanted to be involved in something that, like I said, in the past had a bad name or there was corruption involved," he told a news conference.
"For me, the past is the past. I'm only interested in the future and it's going to be a very bright one."
The 38-year-old began his new role in Chinese football in March, before announcing his retirement last month after winning the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
China launched a high-profile crackdown on corruption in football in 2009, and scores of officials, referees and players have been imprisoned.
Earlier this year, authorities banned 33 people -- including league officials -- from involvement with football for life and stripped Shanghai Shenhua of their 2003 league championship title.
But as Chinese football appears to be stepping out of the shadows of its murky past, the national team continues to be a target of ridicule for the country's long suffering fans.
The latest humiliation -- a 5-1 loss to Thailand in a friendly game held in China on Saturday -- saw angry scenes after the game and thousands take to the Internet to vent their anger.
While Beckham did not mention that game at the news conference, he appeared to respond to an emailed question from a fan about the match on Wednesday on his new account on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
"I know the result wasn't good recently, but sometimes you have to go through the difficult times to improve," he said.
Beckham said Thursday he hoped his role would have a positive influence on football, especially for children learning the game in China.
"I'm excited about a league that is in a very good position right now. I'm excited to be part of something that we will see and already have seen a change," he said.
The trip is the second of three that he is making during the Chinese season, which runs from March to November.
He is expected to attend a CSL game in the eastern city of Hangzhou on Saturday before joining his glamorous wife Victoria at a charity auction in Beijing on Sunday.