On Thursday it was announced that David Beckham would not be included in the Team GB football squad. Instead, coach Stuart Pearce selected Welshmen Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy and, controversially, English defender Micah Richards as his designated players over the age of 23-years-old.
Thus his exclusion came as something of a shock. Alas Stuart Pearce was not to be tempted by a selection based on sentimentality, and for that he has faced understandable criticism.
In May, Pearce went to watch Beckham play for The Los Angeles Galaxy to assess him ahead of his squad selection. Beforehand, however, he made his intentions very clear, suggesting that the omission of Beckham shouldn’t be such a surprise. Pearce said: “He’s been a great ambassador but that’s no guarantee he’ll get in the squad. I’m picking on form and merit alone.”
Unfortunately for Beckham, he did not sufficiently impress the England under-21’s coach to a warrant a place in his Olympic squad. As Pearce had already forewarned, he would not be picking any player on anything other than footballing ability.
While I do not agree with Pearce’s decision, he has received some backing from the footballing world. Former England winger John Barnes told BBC Sport: “The Olympics is about winning. You’re belittling the Olympic ideal if you choose someone just to put on a spectacle.”
Likewise, former Plymouth manager and England player Peter Reid said on Twitter: “Beckham decision purely a football decision, the right one as well.” Many sports journalists have defended Pearce, presenting their belief that the Olympics should be about winning and that Pearce ought to select the best team available to him. It has also been suggested a number of times that the Olympics could and should be used as a platform for younger players, giving them the experience of a major tournament and allowing the nation to build for the future.
Is the Olympics a major tournament, though? After all, there are still 1.2 million tickets remaining for Olympic football matches. Moreover, this is the only time that Great Britain will ever play football in the Olympics.
In that case, surely the UEFA European Under-21 Championships are a far better way of preparing young players for the future? Indeed, if you are really looking to prepare for the coming years, why would you pick Bellamy and Giggs, aged 32 and 38-years-old respectively?
One must wonder whether a coach would include anyone over the age of 23-years-old if he were intent on using the Olympics as a platform for younger players. The Olympic football tournament is second-rate already and including Beckham would have not undermined the standard any further.
The London 2012 games are a one-off, once-in-a-lifetime event, and as such, sentimentality would have been welcomed. Throughout his career David Beckham has given his all for his country, accumulating 115 caps and captaining the team from 2000-2006. More than this, however, he has consistently acted as a role model for young people throughout the United Kingdom.
Add this to his work as an ambassador for London 2012 (perhaps Britain may not have been awarded the games without his work) and you have an ideal candidate to lead Team GB out at Old Trafford, Beckham’s old stomping ground, on July 26.
The midfielder’s inclusion would have been worthy of the Olympic Games and a fitting tribute to Beckham’s tireless work for his country over the past decade or so. Indeed, who could argue against his inclusion in place of Micah Richards, a man who refused a call-up to England’s Euro 2012 squad because he wasn’t guaranteed a starting place?
Beckham would have provided leadership, class and a tremendous work ethic to the Team GB set-up. While he is not the player he once was, the LA Galaxy man would have more than held his own in the Games. His exclusion is a mistake.
The people wanted Beckham to play and ultimately, it is the British public who are paying for the Olympic Games. While I am not suggesting that the former should be allowed to choose Stuart Pearce’s team, the obvious views of the nation ought to have been considered.
Beckham’s inclusion would have acted as a uniting force within the Team GB football squad. With Beckham playing, a greater number would be inclined to buy tickets for games and more still would elect to watch matches on television. Naturally, if this were a World Cup or European Championships, I would not endorse the inclusion of a player for publicity or financial gain. This isn’t, it is the London Olympics and nowhere near as important in footballing terms as either of the aforementioned competitions.
With his usual decorum, Beckham said after his exclusion: “Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. He added: “I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad. Like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”
Of course, we will all be hoping that Team GB can win gold. There would be no point entering a competition if you didn’t want to win. However, Team GB’s campaign would have been all the richer had Beckham been involved. Perhaps I am an idealist and blinded by my love for David Beckham, but it would have been an a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much for sport in this country to allow him one last chance at leading his nation on the football pitch.
If it would have been an honour for him, it would have been an even greater honour for us to watch him play one last time.
In video: David Beckham’s equalising free-kick against Greece during World Cup 2002 qualification.
Tweet the author | @AdamPlom
Back to London 2012 Olympics
Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?
We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.