Football

Beckham's absence is Team GB's loss

Team GB is worse off without Beckham (©GettyImages)
Team GB is worse off without Beckham (©GettyImages).

Contrary to the belief of commentators up and down the land, football is not pre-ordained by a higher power.

Events unfolding in a match have not been ‘written in the stars’, nor is there a script guiding events along a path to a dramatic outcome.

No, for the large part, football is a series of fairly random events buffeted along a trajectory by those with more talent than others helping to shape the outcome as best they can.

Unfortunately for David Beckham, nor is there such thing as being deserving of anything in football. Sure sometimes those deserving of accolades and awards get what’s coming to them, but did Bayern Munich deserve to lose the Champions League final in 1999? Did Barcelona deserve to exit the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea this season? No in both cases, but they still lost out.

The LA Galaxy midfielder had seemingly done all he could for the Olympic effort; he lobbied hard alongside bid leader Sebastian Coe, and helped ignite the flame that is currently working its way through the British countryside before it settles in Stratford.

When London were awarded the games back in 2005, Beckham was there. When it was announced England’s capital city had pipped Paris to the post he leapt up out of his seat, his face maroon with excitement, clutching desperately at the beige-suited Sir Steve Redgrave next to him.

Before long his time with England would come to an end, as would his time in England. But he would always have the dream of a rather large farewell in his home city to cling onto, as if it were an Olympic rower.

On Friday, it seemed quite sad when it was announced that he would not be part of the final 18-man squad.

Of course, the Olympic football is something of an oddity, half-way between serious football tournament and a curious relic from the past so heavily resisted in some quarters that the Scottish FA once threatened to punish any of its players should they decide to take part.

Having not fielded a team since 1960, and containing not a single Scot or Northern Irishman, Team GB will disband after this summer’s games and are unlikely to be spotted anywhere near the Olympics again.

Athletes from other disciplines, for whom the Olympics is the pinnacle of their career, have questioned the legitimacy of having football, with all its preening millionaires, stealing the limelight in London later this month.

Stuart Pearce spoke of his desire to pick a side purely on merit, one that he felt could go on and win gold. Which is all very admirable but somehow seems to be missing the point.

Some suggest Pearce’s decision to leave Beckham out was a way of asserting himself having been shunted unceremoniously out of the senior England set up, others went as far as to suggest that Gary Neville’s involvement alongside Roy Hodgson at Euro 2012 was enough to send Pearce into full retribution mode. Beckham’s best mate has a lot to answer for.

Judging by the one million plus tickets still left unsold, Olympic football hasn’t quite captured the imagination of the public, and judging by the muted response to the unspectacular squad announcement today, it is unlikely to grab this island by the short and curlies any time soon. Pearce’s squad selection and talk of the utmost professionalism is out of tune with what the nation perceives as a vageuly interesting day out.

All of which makes Beckham’s omission all the more peculiar, and all the more saddening. Aside from the obvious commercial benefits Beckham’s presence would bring, Olympic football is poorer for the loss of Beckham. One is perfectly justified in asking whether Pearce himself deserves to manage Team GB given his lack of managerial achievments. Harry Redknapp once expressed a desire to manage Team GB - the more succesful man is nowhere to be seen, so Pearce's assertion about having the best men for the job seems a little rich.

Even if he does now play in America,  he is still good enough to play with AC Milan so is more than capable of taking part in a kick about this ummer. And even if he is no longer up to sratch, what harm is there in naming him in the squad for sentimental reasons - surely sport is at its finest when the old hero rises for one last effort? Everyone loves an underdog.

Football at the Olympics carries little kudos and will not be taken seriously by the watching public, not after millions tuned into to watch a dazzling Spain team show the rest how it is really done at Euro 2012.

If ever there was an option to drop the shtick about giving 110 percent and talking about being in it to win it, this was it. Olympic football will never be viewed as the pinnacle of the sport, and this was the perfect opportunity to add to the sense of excitement and anticipation, and it has been missed.

Having been treated fairly roughly in the latter days of his England career, especially under Steve McLaren, Beckham has always answered the call of his country, and is deservedly respected for it. A long time has passed since all he was known for was sarongs and celebrity. He is now better known as a man who, above all else, is the embodiment the very best these shores have to offer.

The summer games are about taking part we are told, not just winning. And there is no one more deserving, nor more willing to take part than Beckham.

Topics:
Internationals
Football

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