David Beckham will make several appearances at the London 2012 Olympics, but none of them will be as a competitor. That’s because Britain’s soccer coach Stuart Pearce has left Beckham off the national squad.
The former England captain broke the news late last night in a statement released by his representatives. “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,” he said. “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 played a key role in London’s winning bid to host the Olympic Games, and he subsequently took on the role of international cheerleader for the nation. In 2008 he appeared in the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. And just last month he traveled to Athens as part of the delegation that collected the Olympic torch. That appearance—and his gig carrying the torch in Cornwall—fueled speculation that he would make the national squad, if only as a thank you for all of his efforts helping to secure the Games for London. Others suggested his selection was essential to help boost the popularity of Olympic soccer, and to sell t-shirts and other souvenirs.
But Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, says that organizers put no pressure on Pearce to select Beckham. “[Pearce] has to pick the team that he thinks can lift that trophy,” Coe said last month. “I wouldn’t expect any other coach to operate on anything other than that basis. The coach has to be in pole position to select on skill and merit.”
Olympic rules require the majority of players be under 23 years old. Only three players on the 18-man squad can exceed the age limit. The identity of those players has not yet been confirmed, but British media are reporting that Pearce has chosen to go with Craig Bellamy (a 32-year-old who plays for Liverpool), Ryan Giggs (a 38-year-old with Manchester United) and Micah Richards (a 24-year-old with Manchester City). Last last month Richards was snubbed from the English squad competing at the Euro 2012 football championships. His selection over 37-year-old Beckham hints that Pearce wanted to add depth and experience to England’s defense rather than its midfield.
But Beckham’s Olympic dream may not be over yet. Bookies continue to slash his odds of lighting the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. And The Guardian reports that Olympic officials are toying with the idea of giving Beckham an official role in the Games. It’s likely that official sponsors like Adidas and Samsung will require his participation, too. Beckham, Olympian or not, remains a brand that blue chip companies can bank on.