The roster for Great Britain’s Olympic soccer team is set and, to his surprise, David Beckham’s name is not on it.
Although Beckham made Coach Stuart Pearce’s list of 35, he was passed over when it came time to pick the three men over the age of 23 that are allowed to be on the 18-man squad.
One of the world’s most recognized and wealthiest athletes, Beckham hardly needs the exposure. And, at 37, his best years may be behind him with his career anchored in MLS and the colonies, but he didn’t try to mask his disappointment. The Sun summed it up with the headline: “Stu Slays Becks’ Dream.”
“Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me, so I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad,” Beckham, the former England captain, said in a statement issued to the Associated press. “Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”
Beckham and Sebastian Coe had played key roles in London’s winning bid to land the Olympics. Beckham participated in the closing ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Games and accompanied the Olympic flame from Athens to England.
“As a Londoner, I will have been really proud to have played a small part in bringing the Olympics to my home town as part of Seb's team, and I can't wait for the games to begin and enjoy every moment along with the rest of Great Britain,” Beckham said.
The “over-age” players picked in Beckham’s place? Welsh stars Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy and English defender Micah Richards, according to the AP. Pearce, according to the BBC, called Beckham on Wednesday to tell him of his decision to go with Richards because he wanted more defensive cover on the team.
Beckham had wanted badly to be the Olympic team captain and to carry the flag in the opening ceremony. “I have led my country before ,” he said in January, “and know how special it would be to lead them into the Olympics.”
Pearce, though, faced the difficult decision of passing over Beckham. “I'm picking on form and merit alone,” Pearce had said earlier. “David Beckham will be treated exactly the same as any other individual, whether it is young or over-age.
“I have a duty of care to the Great Britain squad to try to win a gold medal. I will pick the strongest squad I can.”
Now, Olympic organizers will try to find a role for him, perhaps in the opening ceremony. The Guardian reports that Olympic sponsors Adidas and Samsung are likely to require his presence in London.