Pearce announces Team GB football squad for London Olympics

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By Tom McLaughlin on 5.7.2023

Pearce announces Team GB football squad for London Olympics

Stuart Pearce announces his Team GB squad. Photograph: Getty Images

On Monday, Stuart Pearce announced his 18-man squad for the London 2012 Olympics.

Unsurprisingly, Craig Bellamy, Ryan Giggs and Micah Richards are the three players over the age of 23 selected to form an experienced nucleus within the side, with the rest of the squad composed of three Welshmen and twelve Englishmen.

In a similarly unexpected move, David Beckham and Gareth Bale were omitted from the squad. Beckham for what Pearce described as ‘footballing reasons’, and Bale for a back injury sustained days ago.

Beckham’s is of course the most notable omission. Widely expected to be picked by virtue of his work in the promotion of the London Olympic bid, Beckham has been excluded by Pearce on footballing grounds. While it is true that Beckham can still play, he does not fit in with Pearce’s vision. Pearce has stated the focus of his team will be on pace and versatility, traits that even the most ardent of Beckham’s fans must admit he does not possess. Micah Richards, Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, however, all fit Pearce’s mould: the pace of the Premier League has clearly prevailed over Beckham’s MLS.

Beckham, however, may still receive a place on the currently undisclosed four-man standby list.

Also notable is the absence of Northern Irish and Scottish players. In the past, hypothetical Olympic squads may have featured the name ‘Darren Fletcher’ on them, but illness has halted the Scot’s career for now. Another Fletcher, Steven, looked worthy of inclusion after scoring twelve goals for Wolves last season, but was omitted.

But, similar to his exclusion of David Beckham, Pearce is justified in his decision-making. Olympic selection in other disciplines does not work in this way, and players simply cannot be selected based on nationality in order to satiate home nations. However, the Scottish and Irish Football Associations could arguably be relieved by this move. Neither supported the idea of ‘Team GB’ and the SFA in particular wanted no Scottish players to participate.

Beckham is predictably upset about his exclusion, but one could forgive him for not being so. While the buzz surrounding the resurrection of a football team representing Great Britain at the Olympics is justified, from a footballing perspective the Olympics are regarded as second-rate. While the summer Olympics are widely accepted as the zenith of athletic achievement, it can be seen that this does not apply to football.

There are of course far more prestigious prizes in football. The World Cup, European Championship, and Copa América all immediately spring to mind, and one would be hard-pressed to find a footballer who values the prospect of an Olympic medal over a domestic title.

There has always been an undeniable lack of enthusiasm in Olympic football competition, shown not just by fans, but by athletes themselves. Welsh hurdler Dai Greene recently stated: “I don’t think the football team should be here”. He almost has a point. Although the conditioning and preparation of footballers cannot be compared to that of other Olympians, it does not mean that the footballers present at the Olympics are not at the peak of the youth game. No one can deny that Brazil’s Neymar is not the world’s superlative young footballer.

However, even though players such as Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Ferenc Puskás have won medals, success at the Olympics remains a mere footnote in their careers.

Regardless of the dispute over the status of footballers as ‘true’ Olympians, it can be seen that the resurrection of the GB Olympic football team came at the right time, at the London Olympics, and hot on the tails of a much-celebrated performance by England’s footballers in the European Championships. Despite that, the team will enter, and possibly leave, the tournament forever known as the team that David Beckham built but ultimately never played for.


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